Ryan Murphy, first overall? Grapes thinks it has a certain ring to it.
Earlier this year, Murphy became one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft’s most recognizable names amongst hockey fans thanks to infamous hockey broadcaster Don Cherry. The spotlight of not only the hockey hotbed that is Kitchener, but prospect and draft nuts everywhere were focused on the Aurora, ON. native after Cherry boldly guaranteed in mid-November that Murphy would be the first player taken in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
It didn’t take long for Murphy to find out about the praise.
“It was pretty cool,” Murphy remarked. “I was on the bus, coming back from a playoff game in London last year, and I had about 36 messages on my phone from friends and family saying that Don Cherry was saying some stuff about me.”
Two months later, Cherry was coaching the sub-six-foot defenseman.
“This year I got a chance to meet him at the Top Prospects Game, which was pretty cool; he’s a hockey god,” said Murphy, who scored 26 goals and 79 points in 63 games this season.
But Murphy’s journey to the top of the 2011 draft rankings starts well before this year.
Selected third overall in the 2009 Ontario Hockey League Bantam Draft, Future Considerations’ 6th ranked prospect was being shaped and moulded long before his arrival to Kitchener head coach Steve Spott.
“I had a great coach in Maurice Catenacci,” Murphy said of his time with the York-Sicmoe Express, a team that boasted a plethora of OHL talent including fellow draft eligible Daniel Catenacci. “We had a great team.”
Since coming to Kitchener, Murphy has become one of the most dynamic defenseman the OHL has seen in years. On Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry remarked that it was Spott, who deserves credit.
“Why is he like that? It’s because Steve [Spott] lets him go.”
And let him go he does.
When Murphy skates the puck end to end, scouts and fans alike can’t help but be eerily reminded of Bobby Orr; a likely reason for Cherry’s affection on young Murphy. Considered to have the most pure talent among defensemen eligible for the draft, Murphy is a wild card coming into Minnesota. With question marks around his size, some scouts wonder about his effectiveness to play a two-way game at the NHL level.
His game breaking skills, however, have him likely going near the top of the pack. A tremendous skater with off the chart hockey sense, Murphy reeks of high end potential for the team that calls his name from the Minnesota Podium.
Those skills were put on display at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship in Germany where Murphy helped Canada to a fourth place finish. He led the team in scoring with 13 points in just seven games and was named the tournament’s top defenseman.
Still, Murphy knows that no matter how much sizzle his displays, he understands what’s at stake for an NHL team drafting in the top-10 and that his size will remain a concern.
“I’m going to have to put a lot of weight on if I want to play in the NHL in the next couple of years.”
According to teammate and fellow top-ranked prospect Gabriel Landeskog, putting on weight is about the only thing the defenseman needs to worry about.
“He can really handle the puck and control the pace of the game from the back end,” Landeskog said. “On the powerplay he’s such a tremendous asset for any team, especially for us [Kitchener Rangers] these past two seasons.
As good as he is on the ice, Landeskog is willing to testify as to what his club’s leading scorer brings to the table off the ice as well.
“You know, off the ice I can’t say enough about how great a guy he is,” Landeskog once more explained. “He’s one of those guys in the dressing room that really puts a smile on our faces everyday; he has some great jokes for us. He’s been a huge part of our hockey club, so far, and he’s a great friend of mine.”
And that’s just the cherry on top when it comes to Murphy.
Brian Huddle is a Future Considerations correspondant and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!