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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

OHL roundup: Murphy soaring, Spooner to take on Hamilton and Strome

The Kitchener Rangers seem to be flying high after two key additions boosted the offense.

Gabriel Landeskog's return from a high ankle sprain last week that had sidelined him since late December and Jerry D'Amigo's arrival after Toronto loaned their '09 7th-rounder to Kitchener have made a significant impact and opened things up for other players.

Key beneficiary: defenseman Ryan Murphy, who tallied a pair of goals (and was a +2) in the Rangers' 5-3 win over Guelph Tuesday night. That now gives the uber-skilled rearguard 21 goals and 65 points in just 49 games, along with a +16 rating. D'Amigo also had two markers, while Landeskog added an assist but was a +3.

Murphy has often been compared to Windsor defenseman Ryan Ellis, but aside from the fact that they both share about the same size, these are two pretty different players. Murphy is far more dynamic and brings similar power on his shot. To compare the two in their draft years at age 17, Ellis had 22 goals and 89 points-- impressive totals by any stretch. Murphy should surpass the goal totals, but he'll have to pick up the points per game pace to hit 90 by the time the regular season wraps up. Ellis did a lot of his damage on an unbelievably deep and skilled Windsor team that won its first of two Memorial Cups in '09, but Murphy is on a similarly balanced offensive attack and his numbers will benefit with the return of one teammate and the addition of the other new blood.

Kitchener is 3-0 since Landeskog and D'Amigo arrived in time for the weekend.

Bruins fans will have an interesting game to track on Wednesday night in the OHL, with Kingston Frontenacs and prospect Ryan Spooner taking on the Niagara Ice Dogs with defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome as two potential draft picks for Boston in June-- assuming they don't trade that Toronto pick. That might be a bad assumption, given that Boston is primed to make a run and just may need that potential top-5 selection to be used as the capital required to land a legitimate impact player either on the blue line or up front.

Hamilton is a B2011DW favorite, right along with Murphy. We've been watching these guys all season, and it would be a shame to see Boston fall out of the running for drafting one or the other, ditto Landeskog, and even possibly Strome. But, the reality is-- if the Bruins think they can get a legitimate NHL talent who can help push them over the top for a Stanley Cup run in June of this year, they'll gladly surrender that Toronto pick.

That sounds like bad news for Bruins fans and draft watchers, but if the return is solid, so you can't begrudge the team going for it in the here and now. GM Peter Chiarelli should hold out for as much as he can get, however. That Toronto pick is worth a good deal more than settling on a middle-tier player; the Bruins should reach for the sky on this one. Or, keep the pick and use it on a player who can be a possibly low-cost ELC option to help the club in 1-3 years.

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