GLENDALE – Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy is returning to the ice this weekend to play for Team USA at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.
Murphy is returning to action with confidence gained from his recently completed rookie season in the NHL, in which he played 30 games and scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
"He's a smart player," Head Coach Dave Tippett said of Murphy, whom the Coyotes selected with the 20th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. "He plays an aggressive game and he takes time and space away from opponents very well. He's still young but we really like what we've seen from him so far."
Tippett, by the way, also is involved with the upcoming World Championship as head coach of Team Canada, as are Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker (Denmark), and prospects Andy Miele (USA) and Tobias Rieder (Germany).
Murphy finished the 2013-14 NHL season with one goal and seven assists and was plus-5, which ranked 10th in the League among rookie defensemen. He averaged 17:58 per game, including 22:32 in his debut vs. Tampa Bay on Nov. 16 at Jobing.com Arena. With his mother and father, former NHL defenseman Gord Murphy, watching within the arena, Murphy scored his first NHL goal at 17:05 of the second period.
"I think I almost broke my hand punching the ice I was so excited," Murphy said after that game, which Phoenix won 6-3.
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Murphy twice before has played for Team USA and both times he and his teammates won gold – at the 2013 World Junior Championship and at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championship. In the latter, he notched three goals in six games including the game-winning overtime goal in the gold medal game against Sweden.
Team USA begins play vs. host Belarus on Friday at 10:45 a.m. (AZ time). NBC Sports Network will televise and stream that game – and all Team USA games in this event.
"I’m very excited to start this tournament," Murphy said. "Obviously it was frustrating for everyone with the Coyotes not making the playoffs and having to go home early. But getting the call after the season to get a chance to represent the U.S. in a great tournament is an honor. I can't wait to get started."
Murphy also is excited that Miele is playing for Team USA at this event, and he likes how the team’s roster looks on paper.
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"We’re a young team, and I think there is a good variety of skill sets, and what should stick out is the speed of the team," Murphy said. "It should bring fast, competitive, and exciting hockey to watch."
Although he’s worn it several times before, Murphy said he’s eager to don his country’s sweater again in another international tournament.
"It’s a very prideful feeling to be able to play for your country," said Murphy, a native of Dublin, Ohio. "As cliché as it is, it’s a great feeling getting to wear the USA jersey. It’s humbling knowing what you represent every day being part of USA's roster."
The IIHF World Championship runs until the gold medal game is played on May 25. Murphy is hoping he and Team USA are there for the duration, and he also is hoping to have some fun during his free time in Belarus.
"I hear Minsk is a great city," Murphy said. "I love to eat, so I definitely plan on trying out some of the restaurants around the area. My brother is going to come over for a week so being able hang out and check out the city with him and some buddies on the team who I've played with before will be a lot of fun."