Ryan Murray has already played three full seasons in the WHL, and in eleven days he’ll be one of the first five players selected in the 2012 NHL entry draft. He played for Canada at the World Championships this past spring, and he didn’t look out of place amongst the NHLers that filled out the rest of Canada’s roster.
Will the Oilers take Murray first overall?
We don’t know, but we know they really like him and I had a chance to go one-on-one with the young man from White City, Saskatchewan.
Jason Gregor: You and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have the same agent, Rick Valette. Have you spoke to Ryan about the pressures leading up to the draft?
Ryan Murray: Yeah, I got to spend some time with him at the world championships. I roomed with him for about two weeks there, so I got to hang out with him a lot there, and he just told me to enjoy it all. And he said it’s going to be a real busy summer for me, and things are going to start changing quite a bit in your hockey career, but just go and have fun with it is what he said.
JG: You’re listed at 6 feet, 185. Is that legit, or what is your up‑to‑date actual weight and height?
RM: I’m was 6 feet, 200 pound at the combine.
JG: So you are probably going to play around 200 to 210 pounds when you make the NHL?
RM: I hope to be up there. Right now I’m playing at about 190. So if I could up my playing weight about 10 pounds, it would be good.
JG: The scouts like everything about your game. You move the puck incredibly well; you skate very well. How would you describe your game? What’s the best element?
RM: I think probably my puck‑moving ability and maybe my skating. Ever since I was little, my coach has always taught me to move the puck first and get it into the forward’s hands. So it’s something that I have always just kind of worked on and always done ever since I was a little kid, and I think that it’s kind of paying off now.
JG: Do you kind of tailor your game after anybody in the NHL?
RM: I really like the way Duncan Keith plays, and obviously Lidstrom is an incredible defenceman and one of the best that ever played, I think. I just really like the way that Keith plays, and I watched him a little bit and got a chance to play with him at the Worlds and that was pretty cool. He’s just so good at moving the puck and so quick and so good in his own end. He just really dominates the game in all areas of the ice, and he’s just a really good guy to watch and a really good guy to learn from.
JG: Is it hard not to read about everything that’s going on and being said about you leading up to the draft?
RM: Yeah, I mean it’s tough. During the year I tried really hard to stay away from all that stuff and not really read into anything and, not take anything to heart whatever you’re reading. I mean, I’ve seen myself pretty high and pretty low some on draft lists, so I just try to stay away from that during the season. But now that it’s all done with and I’ve done everything that I can do, I kind of have been looking into it a little more and kind of reading more blogs and stuff like that.
JG: There’s a lot of Western Hockey League defencemen who could go in the top-ten this year: You, Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, Matt Dumba and Derrick Pouliot. You played against those guys, granted you don’t see them as much because you’re in a different conference, but what aspects do you like about their game?
RM: Well, I got to play with Rielly at the under 18s last year, and he’s an incredible D‑man. He was one of our best offensive D‑men at that tournament. He just sees the ice so well and makes plays so well, and he can skate extremely well and takes care of his own end. He’s a really good 200‑foot player.
Dumba, he’s an electrifying player. He can hit hard, score big goals, dangle guys and he’s just an exciting player to watch. Reinhart: Big guy, just kind of stays at home a little more, I guess. He’s good in the offensive zone as well. He’s got really good vision and can really make good passes. And Pouliot, I played against him a lot, and he just controlled the puck so well, has great poise and incredible vision when he skates up ice. All those defencemen are just really great players. I think they’re all going to have really good careers.
JG: Now that the draft has become so big and you were a player who was a year away, did you pay more attention to it the last few years? Is there anything you think that you will be surprised by when you get down to Pittsburgh?
RM: Yeah, I watched it the past couple years. I mean, it’s been exciting being able to see guys go up there that you’ve actually played with and against and guys that you know. So you know, it has been pretty exciting for me just to watch it the last few years. I’m just going to go there with a positive attitude and, you know, hope for the best. I’d really be excited to go anywhere and play anywhere and just get the opportunity to be a part of an NHL franchise. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.
JG: You shoot left, predominantly you play left D. Have you played any right D, or are you a guy who likes to play the left side?
RM: I think that it’s a lot easier to play the left side. I think the game is just kind of easier, and I like playing the left side more, but I mean I have been kind of thrown back and forth between the both of them, and I’m comfortable on the right side as well.
JG: You went to the World Championships, your first opportunity to play with NHL players. What did you take away from those games?
RM: It’s just good to witness that first‑hand and play against those guys first‑hand. I never played with guys of that calibre before. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve just watched them on TV, and I learned a lot being on the ice with them. It’s great that I got to go out there and practice and play with some of those guys, and I guess you can just kind of measure yourself up against them and know what to expect coming into next year’s camps.
JG: Was the speed of the game at all a concern, or did you leave there pretty confident that your foot speed is good enough to go right now to the NHL?
RM: Well, the first couple games it was pretty quick out there. I didn’t think that I was keeping up too well, and everything just felt like it was just flying around, guys were flying around. I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed; but after the third game, I just really started getting comfortable and the game kind of slowed down for me and everything just started feeling normal again.
JG: When you spoke to Nugent‑Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, did either one of them try to sell you on how great it would be to come to Edmonton?
RM: Yeah, I talked to them a little bit. I hung out with Nuge quite a bit, and I sat beside Dubnyk in the dressing room and stuff. So I talked to those guys quite a bit, and they were hassling me a little bit, saying come to Edmonton and stuff like that. But obviously, it’s not in my hands and I think it would be a great spot to go. But like I said, it’s not in my hands.
JG: When you look at your style of game, the opportunity to move the puck up to Hall, Eberle, Nugent‑Hopkins on a nightly basis would have to be pretty exciting for you.
RM: Yeah that would definitely be great for a defenceman, to have forwards like that to work with and skilled guys who are always open, and guys you can always give the puck to and know that they will do something with it. It would be a dream come true to play with those guys.
JG: For a D-man, size and strength are even more imperative. You talked about being 200 pounds. Are there any specific things you want to work on to ensure that you’re physically ready for the NHL next season?
RM: Yeah, I definitely want to work on my skating for sure, and hit the gym hard this summer and ensure I do enough training. It’s going to be a busy summer, and I know that. So get in training whenever I can. I noticed at the Worlds how much stronger the pros are. I have got a lot of work to do in that area, so I’ll be able to knock guys off the puck. I want to be a force in the corners and be able to battle for the puck, so I want to get a lot stronger before the end of next year, and if I do, I think that it will help my chances.
If the OIlers draft him, Murray will definitely play for them next season. He’d fit one of the major holes this organization needs, a young, elite puck-moving D-man, but we’ll have to wait until next Friday to find out if he’ll actually get the opportunity to move the puck to RNH, Hall and Eberle.