When the Columbus Blue Jackets selected defenseman Ryan Murray with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, they envisioned a player who could quickly become a fixture along their blue line.
Injuries have kept Murray from reaching his potential; he played 12 games last season after sustaining a knee injury, after having knee surgery in the summer of 2014. He would miss five additional weeks with a high ankle sprain he sustained in November.
But the 21-year-old appears primed to turn things around this season.
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"I've been on the ice for almost two months now," Murray told the Blue Jackets website. "I've done some things differently this summer, changed it up a bit; the workouts have been less weight-based and more body and movement-focused things.
"I spent part of the summer at home in Saskatchewan, hanging out with my friends and family, relaxing, playing golf, and it was great. It was good to go home and recharge, and now I'm back here and ready to work."
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made it known that having a healthy Murray in the lineup would be the most important acquisition the Blue Jackets could make on defense this season, and Murray is doing everything in his power to try to stay on the ice. Columbus opens the season on Oct. 9 against the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena.
"It's great to hear that they have that confidence in me, but at the same time, I have to show up and prove it," said Murray, who has five goals and 19 assists in 78 games. "Right now, I'm not thinking too much about opening night, I'm just thinking about the things I need to do on a day-to-day basis to get ready. Once we get closer to playing actual games, I'll be focusing on that more but right now it's the one-step-at-a-time approach still."
Murray said the Blue Jackets, who went 12-0-1 over their final 13 games last season but missed a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by nine points, have plenty of unfinished business in 2015-16. He said he likes the fact the defense has remained basically intact. Columbus added forwards Brandon Saad and Gregory Campbell this offseason.
"Even when we've struggled, [management] hasn't sold the farm or whatever," Murray said. "They've kept this group together because they believe in us, and that's great because we feel the same way. It says a lot about every person in here, the character we have, and the type of leaders we have.
"We have a young team and every single one of us has something to prove. That's our approach. We have the pieces in here, we all truly believe that."