GLENDALE -- Excitement is building in the Coyotes dressing room for Thursday night’s season opener against the Winnipeg Jets, but for defenseman Connor Murphy it might already have hit a fever pitch.
After getting called up for his first taste of NHL action in mid-November of last season, Murphy has made the roster right out of training camp, something that the Ohio native is trying to keep in perspective.
"It’s a thrill," Murphy said with a smile after Tuesday’s upbeat practice at Gila River Arena. "It’s a privilege to be here, I’ve just got to keep going now. It’s a great group to be a part of. I think we have a great team here, so I’m just going to do my best to help the team as much as I can."
Despite playing in 30 games for the Coyotes last season, Head Coach Dave Tippett said Murphy still had to beat out other young players and some veterans looking to return to the NHL for a roster spot.
"He's earned the right to be here," Tippett said. "He's had a good enough camp that we felt like he should be playing in our top-six. He'll continue to get better consistently in the way he does things — not just thinking them, but actually getting them done will continue to improve every day with him."
Murphy credits the coaching staff for helping him win a spot on the Opening Night roster.
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"I’m fortunate to be here and work on those things that the coaches have been helping us with all camp," said Murphy, who was selected 20th overall by the Coyotes in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. "(Associate) Coach (Jim) Playfair and all the staff have been good with giving us feedback and making sure we’re playing to our highest level. I think it helps to have that group behind us."
While Murphy has a spot on the NHL roster now, he knows he’ll have to continue to outperform the other young defensemen down at the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate in Portland in order to maintain his spot.
"I think for me it’s just about being aggressive and just playing and competing," Murphy said. "Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of things to learn and improve on, but if I keep that foundation of playing intense and competing hard on guys and closing gaps and doing really well defensively, and that’s where I want to be, I’ll continue to improve with that…"
When asked what he was looking forward to most on Thursday night, said lining up alongside NHL teammates during Opening Night player introductions for the first in what he hopes will be many times.
"I grew up watching Opening Nights and it always seems to be one of the most exciting (games)," Murphy said. "I definitely can’t wait. This is what we’ve been waiting for for a while and working toward every day in practice and camp. I’m glad it’s coming."