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Top prospect Murray already familiar with Oilers

by Mike G. Morreale

You get the feeling Ryan Murray, NHL Central Scouting's No. 2-rated North American skater, would feel right at home wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey.

He got to know Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Devan Dubnyk while playing for Team Canada at the World Championship in Finland in April, and was also a regular in the Oilers' locker room while representing his country during the World Junior Championship back in December during preliminary-round competition.

"That dressing room is pretty unbelievable," Murray said. "The nicest one I've ever been in."

On Friday, the 6-foot-1/2, 195-pound defenseman from the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League returned to Rexall Place in Edmonton for a special meet-and-greet with the Oilers managerial team.

While much has been made of Central Scouting's top-ranked North American skater, Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, it would come as no surprise if the Oilers opted to take Murray with the No. 1 choice.


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Oilers president Kevin Lowe, who also happens to be the general manager of Hockey Canada, was the man responsible for inviting Murray to the World Championship. The Oilers hold the No. 1 pick in this year's NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and it's become obvious that Lowe holds Murray in high regard.

"I think I've got a lot of work to do this summer if I want to make [the NHL] next year, but I'm prepared for that," Murray told the Edmonton media during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

He said the experience he gained at the World Championship was incredible and something he will never take for granted.

"I tried to sit back, watch and see everything that was going on -- how [pros] prepare and what they do on the ice," Murray said. "I wanted to take everything in. I wasn't really expecting the call [to join the team at the World Championship] so I was pretty surprised. I was fortunate I got the opportunity to go."

As the youngest player selected to Canada's National Junior Team roster for the 2012 WJC, Murray had two assists in five games en route to earning a bronze medal. In his third season with the Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, Murray not only became a calming influence along the blue line, but a leader. He finished with nine goals and 31 points in 46 games in 2011-12.

Is he ready for the NHL?

"I think so," he said. "It was my third year in the WHL, and when I first came into the league it was pretty tough every single night since you had to bring your best as a young kid."

When asked if he had ever considered the possibility of being drafted No. 1, Murray shook his head.

"I haven't really thought about it a whole lot," he said. "[Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts] are unbelievable players and they have a ton of skill. Yakupov lights the lamp quite a bit and he's got a ton of skill. It's kind of hard to imagine something like [being drafted first] happening. But if it ever did, that would definitely be a dream come true … it'd be pretty crazy."

Yakupov visited with the Oilers on Monday and Grigorenko was in town on Thursday.

Murray said it was great to have an opportunity to watch Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Dubnyk at the World Championship.

"They're all really good guys, really great guys," Murray said. "I got to hang out with Nuge quite a bit. I knew him a little bit before, but I roomed with him over there, too, so that was pretty cool. I got to know Eberle a little bit, too. He's from Regina, which is right by my hometown [in White City, Saskatchewan], so it was cool to meet and play with those guys."

Murray conducted 16 interviews at the recently completed Scouting Combine in Toronto, and scored well in a few fitness events. He finished second overall in the VO2 Max test duration with a time of 13:32 and was eighth in push strength at 276 pounds.

In addition to the Oilers, Murray also visited with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders this week.

"I've done everything I can do [on the ice] at this point," Murray said. "There's a couple more interviews to go and then the big day comes along. I'm really looking forward to Pittsburgh."

How would he feel if he is drafted by the Oilers?

"When you've got that many good forwards [on the Oilers], it makes the D's job easy," he said. "It'd be a pleasure to play here."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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