Murray shows skill at Jackets camp

Less than one week into training camp, Ryan Murray is already showing why the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted him second overall in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

While missing last season’s abbreviated camp (lockout) due to a shoulder surgery, he’s shaken the rust off of his game and is proving to have a situational awareness beyond his 19 years of age. With only the 6-7 defensive spots up for grabs, the competition is fierce to land one of those two positions.

Although the Blue Jackets have a roster depth that is refreshing, Murray is doing his best to make the decision to send him down a very tough one for head coach Todd Richards and GM Jarmo Kekalainen. “He had a very strong tournament in Traverse City”, said Kekalainen. “He’s showing maturity well beyond his years. I think he’s a guy that’s going to seriously compete for a spot on the opening roster.”
Murray has good passing skills, an accurate shot and can jump up offensively on the rush when it’s called for. Understandably, he showed some rust in his play during Development Camp in July, but he’s spent the summer in Columbus getting into game shape and up to speed.
“From here on out, there are no more excuses for being rusty or not being ready”, Murray said. “I’ve played a lot of hockey so far. Up to this point, I’ve been on the ice every day for about a month now. I’m ready to go and most of the rust is shaken off.”
Training camp is a time when coaches juggle offensive lines and defensive pairings, although Murray has seen steady time paired with James Wisniewski. They were paired for the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Murray finished the game with 1-0-1, +1 and the game winning goal in overtime. He saw time on the first PP and PK unit with Wisniewski.
After the game, Wisniewski shared his thoughts on being paired with the young prospect. “He’s a very smart kid”, he said. “He knows the game well. He could have been a little nervous but, he shows the poise of a ten year veteran. If they pair us up throughout the season, I’d love to work with him. I’m really impressed with his play.”
Here’s another indication of his getting up to speed with the NHL-level play. “I’m getting used to the speed of the game”, said Murray. “Every day it kind of gets a little slower so that’s a good sign.” With the game slowing down for him, the mental aspect of being an offensive d-man is coming into focus for him. 
“It’s not as noticeable as I thought it would be”, he said. “I’m sure all of the (preseason) games coming up are going to be a lot quicker than this camp, Traverse City or juniors, as well. So far, it’s felt pretty normal to me. Guys are just so much smarter with the puck and move it around a lot quicker. The ability to read plays and to make plays is so much higher at this level.
Murray did show some nervousness as the game started, yet he settled in rather quickly and played over twenty-three minutes. “It was my first ever NHL game”, said Murray. “Early on, I was excited but nervous at the same time. As the game went on, I felt the puck better and the plays just slowed down for me a bit.”
He continues, “I wouldn’t say that I’m completely happy with my game. It ended well, but at the same time, there’s a lot of things that I could have done better. I’m looking forward to edging out those bad plays throughout the preseason.”
Head coach Todd Richards had his own assessment of Murray’s first NHL game. “Ryan (Murray) made a great play at the end. He got up the ice. I think that, like any young player, he’ll go back and look at his game. There’s a lot to improve on. There’s still a lot to be really excited about with him.”
“To me, when you watch him play, there’s a calmness to his game. This was his first (NHL) game and he’s playing against men now. They are big and strong and they can skate. In practice, he’s a good passer and sees the ice really well. In this game, I saw some uncharacteristic things out of him. But, there were still some really good things that we saw. There’s a lot to be excited about with Ryan (Murray).”
With seven preseason games still to come, look for Murray to get more ice time as he gets the systems down. He is bound and determined to make the organizations decision about what to do with him as tough as he can.
Short Shifts
First preseason game and James Wisniewski gets a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”, ramping up the intensity with fisticuffs in the third period, sparring with Pittsburgh’s Joe Vitale. “The last six years in a row I’ve had a fight in the preseason. It was a good tilt. I thought I did a good job and it was a good, clean fight. No cheap shots. Said ‘good job’ at the end of the fight and moved on.”

Jack Skille is a Badger in Buckeye Country. But, don’t expect him to don the scarlet and grey anytime soon, as his collegiate ties to Madison, Wisc., run deep. “I’m a Wisconsin Alumni and I always attend the summer events there. A lot of us hockey guys donated back to the college for their new practice facility. Now, living in a college town (Ohio State University – Columbus), you’ll start rooting for that team. I don’t know about rooting for them when they play Wisconsin, though.” He laughed and said, “Probably not.”