At one point, Matt Murray was Central Scouting’s second-ranked North American goaltender heading into this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft.
But when the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds brought in Jack Campbell, a 2010 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, Murray found himself relegated to the bench and his confidence sagged – along with his rankings.
When the final list came down, Murray had plummeted 16 spots to No. 18. The consensus, however, is that the Thunder Bay native will hear his name called in Pittsburgh on Saturday, the second day of the draft, sometime in the second or third round.
He can thank a strong performance at the World under-18 hockey championships, where he led Canada to a bronze medal and stood on his head by most accounts.
Not that Murray is paying too much attention to the rankings.
“I try not to read any media about myself, positive or negative,” the lanky, 6-foot-4 Murray said. “That’s sort of a thing that I do. I wasn’t really tremendously disappointed, to tell you the truth. I think it’s just a number and it doesn’t really impact the teams that are interested in you.
“I think if a team is interested, they’ll pick me whenever they think it’s appropriate.”
Murray, 18, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of Greyhounds grads like John Vanbiesbrouck, Dan Cloutier and Ray Emery, has drawn extended interest from a pair of teams and also expects to meet with a couple more when he arrives in the land of Sidney Crosby on Thursday.
“The (New York) Islanders have sent somebody up here strictly to talk to me. He came in for a couple of hours just to watch me and then went right back to New York,” said Murray, who grew up idolizing the Toronto Maple Leafs, but considers Montreal’s Carey Price his favourite netminder in the NHL today.
“Buffalo flew me down to work out with them and skate with them a little bit. Most of the other teams I’ve just talked to on the phone. I didn’t go to the combine, so I didn’t get to talk to most of the teams there.”
Murray has also been shortlisted for the Canada’s national junior team, one of eight goaltenders, and one of just two 18-year-olds, who worked out earlier this month in Calgary.
Hearing his name called would be a dream-come-true for the 159-pound St. Patrick High School senior, who in 36 games was 13-19-0-1 with a 4.08 goals against average and less-than-stellar .876 save percentage.
“I’ve been waiting for this day every since I started my junior career pretty much,” said Murray, one of just two players to join the Ontario Hockey League out of the Thunder Bay Kings minor midget program.
“It’ll be nice to get it over with. All the waiting is causing a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of nervousness. But I’m hoping my name will get called and if it does, I’ll be pretty happy.”
His play at the under 18s in the Czech Republic will definitely impact where he’s picked, says at least one hockey insider.
David Burstyn of McKeen’s Hockey said Murray is a professional-in-waiting, though there are areas he needs to improve in if he wants to take that next step.
“Murray has NHL size, standing at 6-foot-four, and does a great job of staying square in his net, which helps him cut down angles and cover the net using his size that much more advantageously,” he said.
“Murray is a competitor as he doesn’t stop working and battling to make saves. His biggest area of concern is his lack of skating.”
The NHL Entry Draft is scheduled to begin on Friday night, when the first 30 picks will be announced. Rounds two through seven will be held on Saturday.
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