Murray eyes jump to NHL

Ryan Murray, in Edmonton Friday as part of the Oilers draft prospect fly-in program, says his...

Ryan Murray, in Edmonton Friday as part of the Oilers draft prospect fly-in program, says his experience at the hockey world championships gave him a taste of what it takes to make the transition to the NHL. (David Bloom, Edmonton Sun)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:16 AM ET

EDMONTON - Ryan Murray hopes his junior hockey days are behind him.

As one of the top prospects heading into the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, the Everett Silvertips defenceman is looking to make the jump to professional hockey next season.

The biggest question remains, is where he’ll get that opportunity?

“It is a pretty big jump, some of the guys have been playing in the league for 10 to 15 years, it’s huge jump,” said Murray. “In the CHL, you sometimes play against 16-year-olds who have just started working out. They’re skilled, but they’re still pretty weak in terms of their development. At the NHL level everybody is pretty much maxed out as far as their strength is concerned. I know at the worlds, it was a pretty big jump for me.

“I think I have a lot of work to do this summer if I’m going to make the jump next year. Everyone is skilled, everyone can make plays and everyone is so solid. The gap between the best players and average players is so small, it takes a lot of hard work and I have to be prepared for that.”

Murray, 18, is the third player to be brought to town by the Edmonton Oilers as they try to figure out what to do with the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

The club has needs all over the ice, having finished 29th in the league standings last season. But without a dominant presence on the blue line, the White City, Sask., native is appealing to the Oilers.

That might have been one of the reasons Murray was asked to join Canada’s entry at the World Championships this spring, a team put together by Oilers president Kevin Lowe.

“I heard rumours about that, I don’t know if it was true or not,” smiled Murray. “I wasn’t really expecting the call, I was really surprised when I got it.

“They wanted me to go over there for a week and practise with them and stuff. Unfortunately, they suffered some injuries, so guys could not longer play in the tournament and that kind of opened the door for me. I just took it day-by-day and I was fortunate that I got the opportunity to go.”

Murray was the second-youngest player to play for Canada at the Worlds, next to Paul Kariya, who was about a month younger when asked to participate in the 1993 event.

Murray’s performance helped increase his stock value and also aided in erasing bad memories of his World Junior experience.

“It was really good, you get a first-hand look at NHL players and see what they’re all about,” Murray said. “I had never been on the ice with NHLers before and it was cool to be able to play with them, practise with them and see how they prepare. Just hanging around them puts everything in perspective where you stand and seeing how far you have to go in order to make it.”

Murray admits he has a lot of work to do and that he would be disappointed if a team asked him to go back to junior for another year of seasoning.

There’s little doubt Murray would be a good fit for the Oilers. The question is whether he would be worth passing up on a couple of other top prospects, most notably Nail Yakupov.

“They have a really good group here, they have a lot of young forwards and a lot of talent,” Murray said. “I think anybody in this draft would want to come to Edmonton, it would be a great place to play.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity here, I think this is a developing team. Being a young guy, I want what any young guy wants, which is just an opportunity to play, an opportunity to prove yourself and play big minutes.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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