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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2 minutes in the box with Ryan Murphy

Kitchener Rangers Ryan Murphy is an obvious choice among Boston Bruins fans for the team's first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

The dynamic defenseman deserves to be in the discussion. Murphy's 18 goals and 60 points in 45 games have put an exclamation point on the kind of season he's having in his draft year. He recently played in the CHL Top Prospects game, and playing on a bad ankle, still managed to force the Team Orr defenders to respect his abilities.

Coming into the season, the former York-Simcoe Express superstar was knocked for his defensive play, but he's worked hard to address his shortcomings and has used the experience gained in his previous season-and-a-half with the Kitchener Rangers under head coach Steve Spott and his assistants.

B2011DW caught up to Murphy last month to get his thoughts on the season, his progress as a player and some other aspects of his game.

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: Assuming you were sitting in a room with an NHL team's scouting staff at the draft combine, tell us how you would sell yourself to them as a player worthy of a top selection- in your own words.

Ryan Murphy: Obviously, I'm an offensive defenseman and I have the skating and skills to be a factor offensively. I like to join the rush and I can help on the power play. But beyond that, I'm an improved player defensively from where I was. I think I've learned how to play the position more effectively; how to use my feet and my head to make the right plays and be in position to prevent other team's from scoring goals. I'm still learning, but I know that I can be counted on to be an effective player at both ends of the ice, and that's what I would tell any NHL team.

B2011DW: What has been the most important aspect of your development in Kitchener since you came into the OHL?

RM: My coaches (in Kitchener) Steve Spott, Paul Fixter, and Troy Smith have taught me so much about the game, my positioning and not putting my team at a disadvantage defensively I don't want to make it sound like I couldn't do it before, because I've had some great coaches in my life before I came to Kitchener. But at the same time, I would say that I was always allowed to attack and play aggressively without a lot of emphasis on my own end. Being on this club, I've had to be much more responsible defensively, and the coaches have taken a real interest in making me a complete player while not taking away from my strengths. It's been a great experience here and I couldn't ask for a better situation.

B2011DW: Talk a little about that playoff loss to Windsor last spring after having a 3-0 lead in the series. What did that experience overall do for you as a player?

RM: It wasn't a good feeling after they came back, that's for sure. At the same time, they were a great team with a lot of NHL-drafted players and I think that in the end, their depth won out. I learned a lot about the team and what it takes to play at this level and the kind of intensity the OHL playoffs take on.The way I look at it, we took the best team in Canada to within one game of the OHL final. I learned a lot from going up against players like Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis and all of the NHL draft picks they had on their roster. We came up short, but I think it helped us to grow as a team, too.

B2011DW: I saw you make an unbelievable pass to Jason Akeson during a recent game against Oshawa from the top of the point, right on the tape where he was standing just a few feet off the far post. Is that a play that just comes natural to you?

RM: I like to say I have pretty good vision. But I’ve been playing on this team a long time, and I think we’ve developed a lot of chemistry here. We have a great group of guys, and I just know where (Jason) Akeson is on the ice, so my teammates usually make it pretty easy for me to get the puck to them. A lot of it is instinctive, so it's hard to describe the process behind making one decision over another, but having the ability to process the game quickly is definitely something that I don't take for granted.

B2011DW: Beyond the coaching and development you've gotten in Kitchener, who are some of the other people who have been the most influential to you thus far in your hockey career?

RM: Obviously, my parents have given me so much support over the years. I wouldn't be the person and player I am without them and their willingness to make so many sacrifices for me when it comes to hockey. Also, my coach with the Simcoe Express, Maurice Catenacci has been huge for me. He was a terrific coach and mentor who made hockey a lot of fun for the guys on the team and really brought us together. I learned so much from him, and the experiences I had on that club will always stay with me.

Murphy has a great deal going for him. Although he lacks the kind of size and functional strength to be considered a sure thing as an NHL defenseman, as one of the most skilled "small men" in this class, you don't want to bet against him, either. He has been proving the detractors wrong with a flourish. He's likely to do the same at the next level.

We'll talk to him again before the draft, so stay tuned.

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