Expect to hear Ryan Murray’s name a lot this year. Then expect to hear it even more next season. That’s because the Everett Silvertips defenseman is a late birthday, born after the cut-off for the NHL draft and therefore not eligible for selection until 2012.
But make no mistake; the kid’s an impact player already.
“He’s been unbelievable since the first day I saw him,” said Everett coach Craig Hartsburg, who knows a little something about being an elite blueliner. “You forget how old he is. At 15 he was playing like an 18- or 19-year-old. He does everything right, he’s a total professional.”
Murray tallied 27 points in 52 games as a rookie in the Western League, mostly playing with Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Radko Gudas. But it was in the playoffs where the youngster really served notice. Both Gudas and fellow 19-year-old defenseman Chris de la Lande went down with injuries, leaving young Murray to pick up the slack. The 16-year-old responded with seven points in seven games as the Tips took the physical Kelowna Rockets as far as possible before ultimately falling.
“He was one of our best players, not just our best defenseman,” Hartsburg said. “He probably played 30 to 35 minutes a game.”
For Murray, it was all in a day’s work.
“I got my chances and took advantage,” he said.
Much like he did later in the summer when he was bestowed the captaincy for Canada’s entry in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he guided the under-18s to a gold medal.
“It was a great opportunity and an honor to represent my country,” Murray said. “I thought it was a great experience.”
The reason Murray will be one to watch this season is because of his skill set. The White City, Sask., native models his game after Scott Niedermayer and in fact was even nominated as a future heir to the retired great’s throne in a May 2010 issue of THN. His skating ability and judgment make him a tantalizing asset for any squad.
“My puckmoving ability is probably the best,” Murray said of his strengths, “getting my head up and getting the puck up ice.”
At six-foot, 185 pounds, Murray already has a solid frame to him, but he would still like to get more physical on the ice, listing battling in the corners and being strong on the puck as items he would like to work on in the future. But ironically, with a generation of kids growing up under the influence of savvy defenders such as Niedermayer and Nicklas Lidstrom, Murray has learned that brute strength doesn’t always have to be the answer.
“Using body position and keeping a good stick,” Murray noted, “you don’t have to be able to crush guys.”
But Murray can certainly crush opponents on the scoreboard and with the Tips landing Detroit prospect Landon Ferraro in a trade over the summer, a nice power play unit is shaping up in Everett. Murray is excited to see Ferraro suiting up at center in green and silver this year.
“He’s a great player and a second round draft pick,” Murray said. “We’re expecting big things from him. He scored 37 goals (in 2008-09), hopefully this year he can hit 50.”
With Murray pushing the play up ice and manning the point, this could be the start of an offensive relationship in Washington state.
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