A taste of the NHL has only whetted Ryan Murphy's appetite for more.
Murphy, the 12th player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft, was the captain of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League when he received an emergency call-up in February after injuries decimated the Carolina Hurricanes' blue line. The then-19-year-old wound up staying with the Hurricanes for four games and averaging more than 21 minutes a night. Though he didn't have a point and was minus-4 during his brief stint, those four games gave him an idea of what life in the NHL is like.
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With his junior career behind him, Murphy is aiming for a longer stay in Raleigh as he takes part in the Hurricanes' development camp this week -- though he knows that if he makes the parent club, he won't be seeing the same kind of minutes as he did in February.
He's more than OK with that.
"It's not putting too much pressure on me to play big minutes. It's easing me into it," he told the Hurricanes' website. "I think if I'm a [seventh or eighth defenseman], I'd obviously want to move up in the lineup. I'd do my best to prove myself and get more minutes."
Murphy turned pro last spring with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' farm team in the American Hockey League, after producing 220 points in 228 OHL games with Kitchener. He had two assists in three regular-season games with the Checkers and two more in five Calder Cup Playoff games while getting used to the speed and physicality of the professional game.
"It was a great experience," he said. "It's great hockey with a great pace, and I learned a lot."
But it also showed him where he has to get better.
"I'm just coming out of junior now, so there are a lot of aspects of my game that I want to improve," he said. "Mainly, I want to get bigger and stronger in the defensive zone. Positionally, I need to focus on the little things on the ice."
Getting stronger physically is going to be a key. Murphy is 5-foot-11 and was 165 pounds when he was drafted. He's up to 185, though he'll probably have to add some more muscle before he can earn a full-time spot on the blue line.
For now, it's time to grow and learn before training camp starts in September.
"I'm going to play my game, work hard and do everything I can to make the big club," Murphy said. "Patience is key. I've been patient to make the squad, and hopefully next year is my year."