Oilers have to seriously consider Murray for No. 1 pick
Young defenceman impressed Canada coaching staff at world hockey championship in Finland
By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com
June 2, 2012
Ryan Murray defends during day 2 of Canadian National Junior team summer development Camp at Rexall Place, Camp runs from Aug. 3-6 in Edmonton August 4, 2011.
Photograph by: Jason Franson
EDMONTON - Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson is understandably nervous heading into the NHL entry draft later this month.
Howson wants Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray — who was good enough to get minutes for Canada at the recent world hockey championship in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 18 — but the Blue Jackets pick second.
All the scouting services say the charismatic Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League is the best player. But the starry Russian-born winger with explosive Pavel Bure-type skill is not the best player by a country mile, like Steve Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin or Ilya Kovalchuk were in their draft years.
The Edmonton Oilers have the No. 1 pick but need a defenceman considerably more than a forward and may have to draft by need, not by talent alone, this one time.
“I think you have to draft a defenceman because nobody’s going to give you one,” said Hockey Canada chief scout Kevin Prendergast.
Prendergast acknowledged that defencemen take longer to develop into NHL talents, “but Murray has a special knack. He could play for 15 years. He’s tough, he’ll fight, he’s got good hands, he adapts quickly. Nothing fazes him.
“He didn’t get a lot of points in Everett, but they had a bad team this year. The first couple of games at the worlds, he hardly played, but against the Americans (Canadian assistant coach) Kirk Muller didn’t like the way (Luke) Schenn was playing, so he put Murray in for the last five or six minutes, playing a regular shift. Next game, he played a regular shift the last two periods. Muller, who was looking after the defence, fell in love with Murray,” said Prendergast.
“He’s got a quiet presence to him. I think Yakupov and Murray are the only players from this draft who can play right now. (Swedish forward Filip) Forsberg is a big, strong guy with great hands, but his skating at the under-18s scared me a little bit. He takes a little bit of time to get going.”
The Oilers drafted a defenceman in the first round in each of their first two years in the NHL, with current club president Kevin Lowe going 21st overall in 1979 and Paul Coffey sixth in 1980. Lowe was a defensive D-man, while Coffey got the offence going and made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but both players were integral to the Oilers’ Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s.
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland’s longtime mantra has been to build from the back end.
“Defence and centres,” said Holland, who has made few missteps with the Red Wings.
Coffey was talking to Lowe about blue-liners at the Memorial Cup. Never shy with an opinion, Coffey feels the Oilers have to go for a D-man in the draft. In his opinion, the Taylor Halls and Jordan Eberles and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins need somebody to get them the puck, like Drew Doughty gets it up to Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings’ men in Los Angeles.
The Oilers have Martin Marancin, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Oscar Klefbom and Dillon Simpson in the pipeline, but there hasn’t been a draft with so many high-end defencemen since 2008 (Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, John Carlson, Michael Del Zotto).
If the Oilers were to trade back a few spots, they could easily get Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart, the son of former Calgary Flames defenceman Paul Reinhart and a favourite of Lowe’s because he’s still growing into an NHL-sized body and has untapped talent, even if he is maybe a few years away from prime time.
“At the Ivan Hlinka (a summer under-18 tournament) last year, as the tournament wore on and we had to go against the Russian and Swedish big lines, Griffin shut them down. He understands the game. He doesn’t have a lot of movement to his game, but when he moves, he moves to the right spot,” said Prendergast.
Lowe has also seen Reinhart play more than any other defenceman because his son, Keegan, was also on the Oil Kings.
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