May 16, 2011 1 Comment
At one point last season, many experts were picking Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy to go number one overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Although he’s slipped down many teams’ draft boards as of late, there’s little doubt he will be an elite defenseman at the NHL level. In 63 games this season, Murphy has scored 26 goals and 79 points, including a plus-22 rating. And he committed few penalties, posting just 36 PIMs this season – a great indicator of his clean play, something many NHL organizations look for in their blueliners.
The 5-foot-11, 176-pound Aurora, Ontario native joined the Rangers for the 2009-10 season, playing a fair number of minutes while leading them to the playoffs, before blowing a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Memorial Cup champion-Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario League playoffs. This season, they were unable to get out of the first round after being beaten by the Plymouth Whalers in seven games.
Nonetheless, Murphy remains one of the top-rated defenseman for the upcoming draft. With incredible skating ability, hands, creativity and shot, many scouts are salivating at the prospect of watching him develop in their organization. “Ryan’s work on the power play is outstanding,” NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards told NHL.com. “He sees the ice very well and is creative, [has] excellent passing ability and a great shot that he gets through to the net. (He’s) also an excellent all-around skater.”
“Obviously, I’m an offensive defenseman and I have the skating and skills to be a factor offensively,” said Murphy in an interview with Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. “I like to join the rush and I can help on the power play. But beyond that, I’m an improved player defensively from where I was. I think I’ve learned how to play the position more effectively; how to use my feet and my head to make the right plays and be in position to prevent other team’s from scoring goals. I’m still learning, but I know that I can be counted on to be an effective player at both ends of the ice, and that’s what I would tell any NHL team.”
Unfortunately, Murphy’s biggest problem, like many others his age, is his size. At just 176 pounds, he’s scrawny, at best, and is often pushed around by players older and bigger than him. In the NHL’s Research and Development Camp in the 2010 summer, Murphy was very disappointing, showing very little ability in the face of tough competition. However, his talents elsewhere on the ice will almost definitely hold him over in development until he can bulk up over the next few seasons.
Compared to Ryan Ellis, a Nashville Predators first-rounder in 2009, both players were offensively gifted, but were hampered by size issues. “Murphy is a better skater than Ellis and Ellis has a cannon back at that point,” an Eastern Conference amateur scout said to ESPN. “Ellis is shorter but he’s strong in the lower body.” That shows up in the numbers; Ellis is around 180 and Murphy is 20 pounds lighter.”
“Ryan Murphy may be the quickest and most agile defender in the CHL,” said OHL Analyst Bryan Thiel. “He’s a game-breaker on defense that can leave opposing forwards in the dust on his end-to-end rushes. His vision is excellent as he can move the puck through areas others wouldn’t even consider. His size is his knock, but Murphy is a smart, heads-up defenseman who has learned how he can use it to his advantage.”
Regardless of pros and cons on Murphy’s game, whatever NHL team selects he knows what they will be getting: a project defenseman who has the potential to one day be a dominant offensive force.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.