EDMONTON, Alta. -- Just because defensemen Ryan Murray and Cody Ceci happen to be the two youngest players attending the Canadian National Junior Team development camp this week doesn't mean their chances of making the big club are slim.
Murray barely missed out last year when he was among the final nine players cut after World Junior Championship selection camp in Toronto. Ceci, meanwhile, has been working his way up the ladder and was a deserving invite to the camp that features 47 of the top prospects in Canada.
What sets Murray and Ceci apart from the other 45 other prospects here, however, is the their youth -- they are entering their draft year in 2012 and that's exciting in itself.
"I'm trying not to worry about the draft; I'm just going out there and playing hockey and the other things will take care of themselves," Murray told NHL.com. "I thought I didn't come into camp with a lot of confidence last year; I was nervous and wasn't myself. I wasn't playing my game. Now, I'm just trying to be a lot more confident out there and do what I can."
Cody Ceci (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
Murray was named captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League this past season by coach Craig Hartsburg despite the defenseman, listed at just taller than six feet and 190-pounds, had recently turned 17-years-old. The move was made when regular captain Landon Ferraro, a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, was sidelined because of sports hernia surgery and a bum shoulder.
"I really didn't expect it at all but I got more comfortable with it as the year went on," Murray said. "Coach called me into his office one day and said that I would take over captaincy while Ferraro was out and I took the responsibility and it was a great honor to represent my team like that.
"I just kind of stayed the same way. I acted the same way towards my teammates and played the same way."
Hartsburg never wavered in naming Murray the youngest captain in franchise history.
"To me there never was a question," Hartsburg told the Everett Herald. "He's the most mature kid on our team. He exemplifies what we want to be. He works hard every day, competes hard every day, cares about the team and his teammates. It's a reward for what he brings to the table."
Murray would lead all Everett defenders in scoring with 46 points, including 40 assists, and led the team with a plus-18 rating.
"Ryan brings a lot to the table," Team Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "He's just a steady hockey player. He's one of those players all coaches gravitate to."
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While at camp, Murray has formed quite a dependable partnership with Dougie Hamilton, the ninth choice in the draft by the Boston Bruins in June. Hamilton has been very impressed with Murray.
"I think he's a really good player," Hamilton said. "I played with him at the (2010 Ivan Hlinka tournament) and he was really good. It's nice to be paired with him here. I don't know if we're really competing for the same spot since he's a lefty and I'm a righty and I think we're a little different but that's good to get to play with him and get some chemistry."
Three months younger than Murray, Ceci is also coming off a splendid junior year with the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey League, finishing second among defenders on the team with 34 points (25 assists).
"I'm a pretty young guy and haven't been drafted yet so it was a big surprise to me to be invited to the camp," Ceci told NHL.com. "I was really happy when it happened. It's really exciting to be able to play with some of the guys who are here. They're all drafted, so it's cool and I can learn a few things."
"The coaching staff wants guys who are willing to put their bodies on the line for their country and compete for their country the best they can," Ceci said. "So that's what everyone is trying to show at practice and that's why everyone is going really hard."
Ceci's father, Parri, played in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders and was even named MVP of the 1984 Vanier Cup. He was also inducted into the University of Guelph Hall of Fame in 1994.
So why didn't the 6-foot-1 1/2, 203-pound Ceci follow in dad's footsteps and become a football star?
"That's funny, my dad always wanted me to get into football and I played a little bit growing up, but my mom was a figure skater so she got me skating when I was a little guy," Ceci said. "Mom wanted me to figure skate, which I wasn't going to do, and dad wanted me to play football. So I just combined the two and ended up playing hockey."
Prendergast said both players have looked sharp during camp and neither looks intimidated.
"They're good; they're fun to watch," he said. "Murray is extremely smart and Ceci is so strong in his own end. They have the confidence in their game and they both know how to play, so I don't see why they would pressure themselves any more to do something they're already really good at."
Forward Brendan Gallagher, selected in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, usually finds himself battling Murray when his team, the Vancouver Giants, face Everett during the regular season.
"He's not dirty, but definitely a physical player and he'll be able to rush the puck and make plays offensively," Gallagher praised. "He's a complete player. I think he'll be a very good player in the NHL."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale