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Murray poised to take career to 'next level'

23-year-old defenseman has gained confidence from WCH experience

by Evan Sporer / For

TORONTO - About this time two years ago, Ryan Murray was poised to start his sophomore season in the NHL.

Murray was coming off a strong rookie season, the fifth-best possession player among first-year blue-liners.

"Once you find a groove and some momentum in your own game, and you just kind of get that confidence of playing, you can take that and run with it," Murray said.

The Blue Jackets were also coming off a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, their second-ever as a franchise, and a first-round loss in which they took the Pittsburgh Penguins to six games and the limit.

There was lots of optimism in Columbus, and behind Murray, but an injury-plagued season limited him to 12 games in year two.

"Obviously it [stinks]; you want to play," Murray said. "We made the playoffs, and everything was cool. All of a sudden you're not even playing, you're out of the lineup, and the team was struggling at the same time."

But last year, Murray got back on track. Not only did he get healthy, but he also skated in all 82 games for Columbus, one of three Blue Jackets and the only Columbus defenseman to do so.

"You just get that confidence, you get that groove, and that momentum in your own game," Murray said. "It's just good to find that again."

Now entering year four, which is more like year three, Murray's place at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Team North America was a good reminder to himself of how far he's come since he frustratingly had to watch most of 2014-15.

He's got his confidence back, and he's finding his groove.

"Looking back on it that year was a tough year, but I'm just thankful to get 82 games here, and get selected, and now I'm sitting here," he said.

Because not only did Murray recover from that frustrating, injury-inhibited season, he did so in a fashion that thrust him right back into the conversation of being the best among his peers.

"For everybody, this is kind of something you can put on your resume," Murray said. "You get to play in the World Cup, and that doesn't come around too often, so it's really cool to get the opportunity, and you never know how many opportunities you'll get like this."

Now Murray, at 23 years old with the meat of his career ahead of him, talks about not taking opportunities for granted, and has a different outlook than he did when he broke into the NHL.

"When you're younger, you get these tournaments: Under-18's, World Juniors, but as you get older, they kind of disappear," Murray said. "It's kind of cool to do it again."

The mentality and philosophy also applies to his health.

"At the end of the day, it's completely up to you, and your health is 100 percent up to you," Murray said. "I've learned that big time. There are certain exercises or things people will tell you to do, and I'll just say 'no' now because I know better.

"Sometimes you overwork in the summer time and you go into the season with injuries. Guys train in the summer too hard. I've completely changed all my training and how I look at it."

Back on the trajectory Murray plotted for himself as a rookie, he said he sees this tournament as exactly where he needs to be.

"This is kind of just the beginning, and all of us want to take our careers to the next level," Murray said. "This is a place where we want to start to do that."

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