Murray sticking with Team Canada

Aside from a few shaky shifts in Game 1 against Slovakia, Ryan Murray impressed team officials on...

Aside from a few shaky shifts in Game 1 against Slovakia, Ryan Murray impressed team officials on his first outing in elite international hockey. (AFP)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

HELSINKI - They waited until the final few minutes to put his name on paper and give Ryan Murray the news.

Kid, get your equipment on. You’re getting the chance to make it a dream double at the top of the world!

It wasn’t until Murray climbed off the team bus at Hartwall Arena Friday afternoon that they gave him any indication it was going to happen, that he was going to become the second youngest player ever to play for Canada at the world championships,

At 18 years, seven months and seven days, he moved ahead of everybody except Paul Kariya, who was 18 years, six months and two days when he played in 1993.

“It was just a couple of hours before game time,” said Murray. “They said, ‘You’re going to play.’ ”

The deadline for adding a player to the roster and being able to play is two hours before game time.

Thus it was that the only 18-year-old draft-eligible player to be selected to play for Canada at the world junior this year in Edmonton and Calgary became part of a 3-2 win over Slovakia to open the world hockey championship.

The White City, Sask., product, ranked second only to Nail Yakupov by NHL Central Scouting for the June draft, became one of the big boys, playing as a defensive partner with Norris Trophy winner, Olympic gold medalist and Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith.

“It was kind of neat to see him out there with Keith tonight. The kid is just so composed,” said Sutter.

“He’s been really impressive. For a guy his age to play like his has in this company is more than impressive,” said Keith.

The Everett Silvertops defenceman was selected to join the team for two pre-tournament games in Switzerland in a situation similar to that of Jonathan Toews and Jordan Eberle before they’d played their first NHL games in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

“It’s pretty unbelievable just being out there with these guys,” said Murray.

“It’s just such an honour. I was pretty nervous but after the first couple of shifts, I got into the game.”

Murray was brought to Switzerland with the idea he’d be heading back to Canada when the team came here, but he was flown to Helsinki when Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban suffered a knee injury.

Another injury — lower body, day-to-day — to Marc Methot, the Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman, left Lowe with the option of either playing with five defencemen or putting Murray on the roster as his sixth.

With Murray, this team became the youngest since Canada started sending NHL players to the tournament in 1977.

The average age is 23.6.

Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — at 19 years, 0 months and 22 days — had been the youngest.

Murray now has a wonderful opportunity to audition to be the No. 1 pick by the Oilers, who picked RNH and Taylor Hall first overall the previous two years.

It was Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe — general manager of Team Canada — who added Murray to the roster after bringing him to Switzerland to fill a uniform in two pre-tournament games while the team waited for late-arriving players.

Friday Lowe was just gushing about the guy.

“Our scouts are having their meetings right now. I’m sure they’ll be watching the games,” said Lowe.

While it’s all up to head scout Stu MacGregor and GM Steve Tambellini, who are headed over here after the meetings, Lowe said the Oilers philosophy “is to take the best player who will be playing for the Oilers 10 years from now.”

Is there something to read between the lines there?

The six-time Stanley Cup champion, stay-at-home defenceman said he and the Team Canada brain trust decided to give Murray the same kind of opportunity as Toews and Eberle because “you couldn’t pick a better player to bring over as a kid. And the scouts say he is going to play in the NHL next year.”

Lowe said he watched Murray at the world junior, then, just prior to the end of the season, flew to Everett to watch him for the first time playing with his junior team.

“I’d never seen a kid play a flawless hockey game. But he played a flawless hockey game.”

Friday night Murray wasn’t flawless. Indeed, his second shift was a bit of an adventure. And a turnover early in the second period led to Slovakia’s first goal. But after that he settled into the game and, as was the case in Switzerland, wasn’t out of place.

“It’s not the world junior. It’s a man’s tournament. They turn up the temperature and the stakes are higher,” said Lowe.

So, how would he feel about being picked No. 1 and becoming an Edmonton Oiler?

“Obviously I’d love to go to Edmonton. They have a young team. They’re going to become a really great team.”

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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