With less than two months until the Blue Jackets open training camp on the 2013/2014 season, the player to watch is defenseman Ryan Murray. During the recent development camp, he showed quick hands and good situational awareness on the ice. Murray, Columbus’ first pick (2nd overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is preparing himself to make it hard for the organization to send him to the AHL.
“I think that Ryan Murray is going to be a dynamic player in the National Hockey League,” said Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports. “He’s one of those shut-down guys you have to have if you are going to be successful. He’s got character… he’s got grace under fire. He really handles all of these mature situations really well. I think he’s the one player that fans can look to and say man, oh man, our scouting staff have done a real good job.”
After having surgery to repair his injured shoulder in January 2013, Murray worked himself back to health and was given the “green-light” for full contact as development camp opened. “I feel that I did a good job rehabbing (the shoulder),” says Murray, “I took my time with that and didn’t rush anything. I waited until it was one-hundred percent. It feels really good right now.”
He will be one of many players looking to impress the organization as training camp opens. Including participating in two Blue Jackets development camps, he has the added experience of attending training camp last year. “I was excited to get an opportunity to try out here last year after the draft,” he says. “Then, things just don’t go right and I have to deal with that injury (shoulder). But that’s hockey and that’s the way things go.”
His enthusiasm for the game of hockey and Columbus is evident. “It was a growing experience for me,” says Murray. “Although I wasn’t playing, I learned a different side of the game. It’s a side of the game you don’t want to be on. But, I learned a lot this past winter and I’m going to use that to my advantage.”
After getting the go-ahead from the doctors, he was ready to take to the ice. “The doctors said I’m good to go with no restrictions. I’ve been skating for a while, and I’m excited to get going (with full contact) again. The last time I was on the ice (playing hockey) was November. It’s been a long wait and I’m excited to get back and do it again.”
Asked what he missed most during his time rehabilitating the shoulder, he said “I think just being a part of the team and being around the guys. Just having a place to go every day, you know? I didn’t have a lot to do while I was waiting for the surgery. And then, after the surgery, that was about three and a half/four months where you can’t do anything. Just having a place to go every day and see the boys every day, you know? It’s a lot of fun coming here. That’s what I missed the most.”
He kept in contact with club as he went through the surgery and rehab process. “I kept in contact with the management (Blue Jackets) and with the trainers here and in Everett (his WHL club), just letting them know how I’m feeling and letting them know how things are going. I kept in touch with the doctor who did my surgery (Anthony Miniaci, MD at the Cleveland Clinic). The guys here did a great job of taking care of me. Now it (shoulder) feels one-hundred percent and feels just like the other one, so I’m really happy about that.”
Although Murray, by his own admission, said his skills aren’t where they should be after the rehab, his vision on the ice and decision making don’t seem to have been abated by the layoff. “I felt pretty rusty (first day of development camp), to tell you the truth,” he says. “After a couple of drills, do a couple of transitions here and there, you start to feel comfortable again on the skates. I haven’t really skated backwards all summer. You know, just getting back into those things, doing good habits, passing the puck hard again and on the tape. It’s the little things like that I’m trying to get back.”
After spending the majority of his rehabilitation time in Columbus, he’s chosen to stay here until training camp opens in September. “I want to be in the best possible condition,” he says. “I know that Kevin Collins (Blue Jackets Strength and Conditioning coach) is here and he’s going to help me do that. Obviously, I have to put the work in every day. I think I have the right tools here to make sure that I’m ready to go and to make sure that I have the best opportunity to make the team this year.”
While he’s old enough to be sent to Springfield (CBJ minor league affiliate), he has set his sights firmly on making the roster of the Blue Jackets. “Everyone wants to be up here,” says Murray. “I want to get on the ice a lot this summer and make sure that I’m ready to go and in game shape and condition. I want to make sure that my hands and my vision are there. I want all of my skills to be up to par, I guess. Sometimes, when you get an injury it takes a while to get those things back. I’m just going to work as hard as I can and do whatever I can to make the team.”
He knows what this club is capable of after watching them go on a fantastic run in the second half of last season and looks forward to being a part of that group of guys. “It was awesome! They went on quite the tear there in the second half. It seemed like they were unbeatable. In the last couple of months it seemed like they were winning every game. They made a huge playoff push and I was lucky enough to be around the guys here (while he did his rehab in Columbus).”
“It was great to see the guys in the locker room every day and follow them,” Murray says. “I watched all of the home games. Just being around the team during that stretch was really exciting for the whole city and for a young player, like myself. I’m really looking forward to the next camp here. Hopefully, I do enough to impress them and I can stay.”
He knows the value of being around players like James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson to help him early on in his career. “Those are the kind of guys that you watch every day,” he says. “You watch what they’re doing, how they’re getting ready for practice. You watch how they work out and what they do on the ice. They are guys that you listen to, watch and just take in everything you can from them. Obviously, those guys are NHL veterans. They’ve made their way in the league. They’ve made their way up to where they’re at. Whenever they say something, I listen.”
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen knows that Ryan Murray has been working hard to get himself back into playing shape following the rehab from surgery. “He’s been working really hard and he stayed here (in Columbus). He’s in good shape and he’s getting ready for the main camp.” Kekalainen goes on about Murray, “he’s impressed us with his work ethic and his preparation. This (development camp) was a good first step. Next will be the rookie tournament and then the main camp.”
With the first preseason game scheduled for September 15 at home versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, look for Murray to get some ice-time to show why he belongs with the big club. With a few spots open on the roster, he’ll look to cement his place in the defensive pairings for the home opener of the regular season on October 4th, when the Blue Jackets initiate their 2013/2014 campaign.