TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Murphy is a firm believer that the reward is a lot greater than the risk whenever he steps on the ice.
It's a mindset the defenseman will continue to have until the day he becomes a regular in the Hurricanes lineup. Defensemen always take a lot longer to mature and develop following their draft year, and Murphy is no exception.
"Everyone has to work on things and I'm a high-risk player, so if I could eliminate a bit of the risk from my game, I think that'll help me a lot. … I know I have to prove [I am] defensively responsible," Murphy told NHL.com. "I'm getting there. I'm going to work hard every day and hopefully prove to everyone that I can play at the next level."
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For now, the No. 12 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft needs to exhibit some consistency along the back end. It's something he's hoping to showcase at the Traverse City Prospects tournament this week, then perhaps carry over to the team's main camp in Raleigh, N.C., later this month.
The recent news that veteran defenseman Joni Pitkanen might miss the start of the season with a broken left calcaneus (heel) bone he sustained crashing into the boards during the second period of an April 2 game against the Washington Capitals, could open the door for Murphy.
The 20-year-old defenseman got off to a good start Thursday in the Traverse City opener with an assist and a plus-2 rating in a 4-3 victory against the New York Rangers. He took one shot.
"It helped a lot with this being my second go-round in Traverse City," Murphy said. "Going into the last Traverse City tournament [in 2011], I wasn't sure what to expect with regard to the tempo. I'm one of the older guys this year, so I want to use that to my advantage. We have a good team."
During four seasons with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League, Murphy (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) had 220 points and a plus-47 rating in 228 games. He earned his first NHL call-up and played four games in February when injuries left the Hurricanes in a bind. Despite the fact he didn't register a point and finished with a minus-4 rating, he said the experience was worth it.
"I got four games in with the Hurricanes and it was a bit unexpected, but great nonetheless," Murphy said. "I learned a lot in just that little bit of time and then went back to my club team in Kitchener. I tried to keep that pace up."
Murphy had two assists in three games with the American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte, N.C.
"Going into Charlotte, I had a lot of experience under my belt at a high level, so I tried to use that to my advantage," Murphy said. "It's great hockey and I've learned a lot in my young career, so far."
Ron Francis, vice president of hockey operations for the Hurricanes, acknowledged that Murphy didn't look out of place when he did receive the promotion. In fact, he said the Aurura, Ontario native compensates for his lack of size with his intelligence and shifty skating.
That's something his coach in Kitchener, Steve Spott, told him a long time ago when Murphy was learning the position.
"He took me my first year when I don't think I knew a single thing about defense in my first year in the OHL, and he taught me a lot," Murphy said. "By the end of my career in the OHL, [Spott] had me playing on penalty kill, and in 4-on-3 and 4-on-4 situations. He trusted me and he always told me to play my game and try to be defensively responsible.”
Murphy’s ability to create offense from the blue line is what enticed Carolina to use its first-round pick on him two years ago. Hurricanes fans may get to see those skills on display permanently at the NHL level soon.
"I like to say that my reward is a lot greater than my risk … that's why I was drafted,” Murphy said. “I'm an offensive guy and I can create a lot of offense in the back end and make that transition from our defensive zone into offensive zone smoothly. That's what I'm good at and there's a risk in that, but hopefully my reward is a lot higher."