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Oilers give Penguins permission to interview Nelson for AHL job |

Oilers give Penguins permission to interview Nelson for AHL job

The Penguins have received permission from the Edmonton Oilers to talk to Todd Nelson about their vacant AHL coaching job in Wilkes-Barre, general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday.

Nelson, 46, has a resume that includes a successful tenure coaching Edmonton’s AHL club in Oklahoma City for four-plus seasons and a stint as interim head coach of the Oilers after Dallas Eakins was fired last December. A journeyman defenseman during his playing days, Nelson suited up for the Penguins for one game in 1991-92.

The job opened up in Wilkes-Barre when the New Jersey Devils hired coach John Hynes last week. Baby Pens assistant coach Alain Nasreddine is expected to follow Hynes to New Jersey.

Rutherford did not indicate the coaching search had narrowed in on Nelson. To the contrary, he seemed pleased with the quality and quantity of candidates who have expressed interest in the position.

“We’re looking for a good teacher with a really good resume,” Rutherford said. “We have some guys that we’re interviewing that have NHL experience, that have AHL experience, that have been successful there. We lost a terrific coach in John Hynes. He did a terrific job, and now he’s rewarded for it. But I feel comfortable that we’re going to have a very good coach there.”

If the Penguins hire Nelson, they would not be required to give draft-pick compensation to Edmonton.

Nelson went 176-111-46 as Oklahoma City’s coach from 2010-14, and the team finished in the top 10 in the AHL in scoring in three of his four full seasons. His teams made the playoffs each year and reached the conference finals twice.

Under his watch during the NHL lockout in 2012-13, top prospects such as forwards Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and defenseman Justin Schultz put up gaudy offensive totals. All four averaged better than a point per game. Eberle had 25 goals and 51 points in 34 games.

The Oilers went 17-25-9 when Nelson replaced Eakins after a 7-19-5 start. According to reports out of Edmonton, the Oilers were in discussions with Nelson about remaining with the team as an assistant on new coach Todd McLellan’s staff but would not prevent him from seeking a job elsewhere.

Jonathan Bombulie is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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