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Is third time the charm for Kitchener's Ryan Murphy?

by Mike G. Morreale

Expect Canadian National Junior Team head coach Steve Spott to undergo his share of sleepless nights when he begins his evaluation of players at Hockey Canada's selection camp in Calgary next week.

Defenseman Ryan Murphy is one player who won't require much evaluation, however.

Murphy, chosen No. 12 by the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2011 NHL Draft, was one of 37 players (12 defensemen) invited to Hockey Canada's selection camp at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Dec. 11-13.

Spott has coached Murphy the past four seasons with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. This year marks the third time Murphy finds himself in a position to represent his country at the World Junior Championship -- he was released prior to the final roster selection the previous two years.

Will the third time be the charm?

"I'm probably going to be in a comfort zone," Murphy said of playing for his junior coach. "I have a little bit of an advantage over others because he is my coach during the regular season, so I'm happy he got the job. He's a great coach and I'm just going to go out there and play the game I play in Kitchener."

That's all Spott is asking him to do.

"It's no longer about your club teams but your country, and Ryan knows that," Spott said. "I met with him, face to face, regarding that. My expectation is he'll push for a job here because I believe in him. Ultimately, it's about playing risk-free, using his skills to his advantage by playing his game."

That's something Murphy hasn't done in previous selection camps, when he attempted to play more of a defensive game by sitting back and hesitating.

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"I've told him that he has to play his game; he has to do what he does, which is very special," Spott said. "If he's not a defensively liability, which I don't believe he will be, then he'll make our decision a very difficult one."

Murphy, who finished fifth among OHL defensemen in playoff scoring last season with 22 points in 16 games, admits he did attempt to do too much in previous Canadian selection camps which ultimately led to his release.

There's no question Murphy would serve as a key player working the point on the power play for Canada, something the coaching staff will be monitoring closely because specialty teams are so crucial in a short tournament.

"I think the one thing he might regret from last year [is not playing his game] and this year, he'll come in, play his game and push the envelope while realizing he has to eliminate risks from his game, and I fully expect him to do that," Spott said.

Does Murphy have an advantage because Spott is Canada's coach?

"I think the challenge for Ryan has always been trust, and coaches maybe don't feel they could trust him defensively," Spott said. "I have trust in Ryan, but he also knows that our relationship is coach-player in Kitchener and it won't affect my decision when it comes to playing for Team Canada together. He's a pro and understands that, but my expectation is he can be one of our guys, and I think he has that same expectation."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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