Ages 19 and 20 years old respectively, Ryan Murphy and Brian Dumoulin are looking to follow in the path – one that features regular playing time for young, first-year defensemen – paved by those before them.
They’ll have to do so in an already crowded defensive group with six returning players under contract. But President and General Manager Jim Rutherford said they will have a shot and he expects them to take advantage of it.
“It gives us lots of options now. We’ve got Murphy and Dumoulin coming into camp signed,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time before they’re with our team whether it’s right out of camp or a couple of months later.”
Is Murphy ready to make the full-time jump from juniors to the National Hockey League? Could Dumoulin do what Faulk did in following up a national championship with regular playing time in the NHL the subsequent season?
If not, Dumoulin could comprise half of a top defensive pairing in Charlotte. He joined the Checkers late in the 2011-12 season but did not dress in the team’s final three games.
“It was good to get down there and meet some of the guys on the team, so coming into training camp I won’t be the guy standing on the corner,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t make the playoffs, but they had a good run there.”
Murphy’s situation is a little different. As he will not turn 20 until March 31, 2013, he is not eligible to play in Charlotte next season. He will either play in Carolina, which will commence his three-year entry-level contract, or he will return to Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League for another season.
“From my point of view, it doesn’t make any sense for him to go back to juniors,” Rutherford said. “But there’s a real fine line there with that decision because if he’s not ready to play in the NHL, what’s best for him?
“Is it to be playing here, not quite ready to play but practicing with the team and playing some games? Or is it better for him to go back to juniors where I don’t think it would help his development at this stage of his career? He’s a highly talented player, and I’d like to think coming out of camp that he’s going to be ready to go.”
For Murphy, he knows where he wants to be. Though he remained with the Hurricanes until Oct. 13, he did not dress in any of the team’s first four games. It still gave him a taste of a lifestyle he wants to be a part of as soon as possible.
“I got to go on a road trip with the guys. I got to get a feel for how a regular day in the NHL is. It meant a lot to me,” he said. “Obviously this year I want to do that and go past what I did last year, so that’s my motivation right now.”
Murphy and Dumoulin made a trip to Raleigh during the first half of the week to work out with head athletic trainer Pete Friesen, as guidelines were set for their summer training. Dumoulin headed back to Boston College on Wednesday, where he is currently enrolled in summer classes to finish his degree.
“I’ll be working out in Boston and keeping in contact with Pete, doing whatever it takes to get better for training camp,” he said.
Murphy’s workouts over the summer are geared toward one goal: making him as big and as strong as possible in his 5-foot-11, 176-pound frame.
Though he’s now fully recovered from an early-season concussion – he finished the season leading Kitchener defensemen in scoring with 54 points (11g, 43a) in 49 games – he admitted his memory never really came back from that night.
“I watched the game afterward, and it was pretty weird to watch myself play without remembering,” he said. “My whole season was kind of a roller coaster ride. Getting sent back to Kitchener, then the concussion … by the end I settled in, the team was playing well and we had a pretty successful playoff run.”
Seeing what McBain and Faulk were able to do at a young age on the blue line and seeing that the door has been opened for them to do the same has both Murphy and Dumoulin anxious for training camp.
“It’s one thing I’d like to talk to [McBain and Faulk] about to see their experiences and how they’ve been so successful early on in their career,” Dumoulin said. “That can only help me come training camp to try to do the same thing as them.”
“They were both young guys coming into the League, but nothing was given to them,” Murphy said. “I know they both worked really hard, and I know the only thing stopping myself and Brian from getting into the League is ourselves, so we just have to take this summer really seriously and prepare for the next step.”