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Murphy Wants To Be Known As All-Round Defenseman

Wednesday, 06.1.2011 / 1:20 PM ET / 2011 NHL Draft
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Murphy Wants To Be Known As All-Round Defenseman
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Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer

Anyone who watches Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy can see a supremely gifted skater and offensive talent.

"Ryan's work on the power play is outstanding," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He sees the ice very well and is creative, [has] excellent passing ability and a great shot that he gets through to the net. (He's) also an excellent all-round skater."

"He's got some of the most skill I've ever seen," Ottawa 67s forward Shane Prince, another top prospect for the 2011 Entry Draft, told NHL.com. "He's a great skater, great offensive defenseman. His puckhandling ability and ability to rush the puck is high end and it's tough to play against when he's out there."

Murphy's 79 points (26 goals) in 63 games helped him finish second among all Ontario Hockey League defensemen behind only Nashville first-round Ryan Ellis and his 101 points (24 goals).

His efforts earned the 5-foot-10 1/2, 166-pound blueliner the No. 9 spot (third among defensemen) in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft.

While the offensive numbers jump off the page, Murphy would rather not have the "offensive defenseman" label affixed to him.

"I don't like it that much because I like to see myself as a two-way defenseman who can play in my own zone," he told NHL.com.

While it isn't easy, defensive-zone play has been a major emphasis for Murphy this season.

"To his credit he's worked at the defensive part of it," Rangers assistant coach Paul Fixter, who primarily works with the team's defenseman, told NHL.com. "At the end of last season, when we played Windsor in the conference finals, Ryan was out against the top players in the country, playing in our top four. He was contributing offensively but he was in a shut-down position -- and he's only built on that. Give him credit at working at what some people perceived as holes in his game. He's certainly proven those doubters wrong. He's proven to us that he's capable of playing against top players and not just being strong on the power play but being strong in his own end."

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Added Murphy: "We work on defensive-zone coverage pretty much every practice with our coaches, and I just give it all I've got in practice."

The numbers show how Murphy has improved -- and lifted his team's defensive play as well. He was a minus-3 in 62 games with the Rangers last season. This season, he finished a plus-22.

Murphy credits Fixter, who has a pair of Stanley Cup rings from his days on the Colorado Avalanche staff, with helping him improve his game.

"He always tells me just to play it simple," Murphy said. "Sometimes I over-think it, and his main thing is you don't have as much time as you want but more than you think."

Fixter said having a willing pupil makes him a better teacher.

"He's a great student," Fixter said. "He's very attentive. He's like a sponge, he absorbs everything. Are there times he falls back into his old ways? Certainly, but he's receptive."

All the speed that Murphy usually unleashes when he has the puck is being used to improve his defensive game.

"He's not an easy guy to get around because he's so quick and he's got a good stick," Niagara IceDogs forward Ryan Strome, No. 8 on Central Scouting's list, told NHL.com. "And then when he takes the puck you know what he can do."

Added Kitchener head coach Steve Spott: "His hockey sense allows him to make good decisions and he doesn't get caught up ice very often, like a Paul Coffey -- he's able to get back and use his speed to defend, so as good as he is offensively, he's a little underrated defensively."

While his offensive game is outstanding, Murphy said he's also learning and getting better there as well. While leading the rush and going end-to-end can look pretty -- like the one he pulled out during the 2011 Top Prospects Game -- he's learning he can't force those situations.

Fixter sees that part of Murphy's game growing by the day, as well, and cited a game during the season where the Rangers had a big lead, but injuries and penalties had left the team with just three defensemen for a period of time. Murphy knew to stay back and conserve his energy, because jumping into the offensive zone at that time wasn't needed.

"It's managing the game, managing the clock, managing what transpires in the game," Fixter said. "If we're down we need him to go, if we're up be smart. It's those decisions that as you move along you have to get better at. When you're at minor hockey it's just go. Now he's really learning all aspects of the game. He's a good student who wants to be the best. He's made great strides in his two years playing at this level. He's just so easy to work with because he's easy to be around, always has a smile, and pushes himself to get better each day."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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