Penguins goalie prospect Matt Murray returned to development camp this summer after making his professional debut with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL) in one regular-season game.
The 20-year-old netminder, who was drafted by the Pens in the third round (83rd overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, said he learned a lot in that one contest.
“I think that was really big for me, just to see the speed of the game,” Murray said. “It is definitely a big jump from junior, and for me to get to that experience early and come here with that extra experience definitely helped a lot.”
Murray made his professional debut after his second straight season as the starting netminder for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he was one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Murray finished with a 32-11-6 record, .921 save percentage and a 2.57 goals against average in 49 games. Additionally, he tied for the OHL lead with six shutouts, ranked second in wins, third in save percentage and sixth in goals-against average and was named an OHL Second-Team All-Star.
Murray was also runner-up for the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year award as selected by the league’s general managers. He received 57 points in the voting process, second behind Plymouth’s Alex Nedeljkovic, who got 67 points.
“It think it was a good season for us as a team, as well as for me as a player,” Murray said. “I think we overachieved compared to what the expectations were for us. We won our division and I think that surprised a lot of people. I think my numbers were pretty good this year. Obviously they could have been better – they could always be better – but I had a good year. I was the runner-up for the goaltender of the year award, so overall I was pretty happy with my year.”
That being said, Murray knows there is always more to be done. During the weeklong development camp, Murray trained with Penguins goaltending development coach Mike Buckley and focused on more than just the physical aspects of his game.
“I think a lot of it is just the mental part of the game,” Murray said. “I mean, at this stage of the game, every goalie is obviously capable physically. So, what’s going to set you apart is your mental toughness and your desire to be great. Right now I’m just trying to improve my mental game. That’s the big focus.”
Murray has continued to improve his game since being drafted by the Pens two years ago, and plans to develop even more as a player this season heading back to WBS.
“It’s been a couple of years now (since being drafted), so looking back I’ve definitely been through a lot and I think I’ve grown as a player and as a person,” Murray said. “I think I’ll be going into Wilkes-Barre this season and I look to make an impression early and basically fight for the starting position. I mean that’s what we’re in this business to do – to play. Nobody wants to sit on the bench, myself included. So, I’d like to come in and make an impression early and show that I can play at this level, right now, at my age.”