First Round Targets: Ryan Murphy

I am mostly convinced the Flames should expend their first round pick on a forward this year. The forwards corps of this org are rather dismal outside of one or two bright spots, and even those guys aren’t guaranteed to be impact guys in the NHL. In fact, I’d say you can count the number of forwards who project to be consistent top-6 producers on no hands, if you catch my drift.

However, it may be prudent to picka  defender if a very high value guy happens to fall to Calgary. If the most obvious best player available at 13 is a blue-liner, I have no doubt the Flames will grab him. Especially since the orgs back-end depth took a great, big hit this summer thanks to Erixon-gate.

One guy who may fall to Calgary if everything breaks right is Ryan Murphy. A relatively diminutive defender at 5’10 and 175 pounds, Murphy has nevertheless spent a lot of time at the top of most draft charts thanks to his huge counting numbers and array of high-end skills. His 26 goals and 79 points were good for second on the Kitchener Rangers this season and are just shy of some of the forwards we’ve looked at thus far (Bartschi and McNeill). To put that total in further perspective, the only OHL defenseman to outscore Murphy this year was former first-rounder Ryan Ellis (101 points!) who has been one of the profilic junior hockey point-getters from the back-end in the last decade. Ellis is also about two years older than Murphy, who was born in March 1993.

How good are Murphy’s results? Scott Reynonlds puts them in context over at Copper and Blue here. Reynolds calculated the NHL equivalency rate for each draft eligilble defender this year and found that Murphy was the only one above the .300 PPG mark (0.386). At that rate, Murphy would project to score about 31 points in a full NHL season as a 17-year old. Keep in mind that only 46 NHL defensemen totaled 30 or more points last season.

Reynolds went one step further and compared Murphy’s NHLE to other first rounder defenders picked between 2006-2010. Here is the list:

Again, only Ellis is superior. Notable names like Dew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Cam Fowler and Victor Hedman trail Murphy. That is some heady company.

Of course, counting numbers are problematic in terms of truly assessing a players value and moreso with defenders since their more primary concern is not given up chances and goals against. When the output is this compelling, however, it’s extremely diifficult to ignore.

Not that Murphy’s qualitatives are lacking. Aside from being small, there doesn’t seem to be too many holes in his game. Corey Pronman describes him in glowing terms:


It’s hard to start a write-up of Ryan Murphy without headlining his skating ability, as that tool is really what drives his value so much. It’s a 65 grade tool and there is so much to like about how Ryan Murphy skates—his top speed, acceleration, lateral movement and edge control. He can get to top speed within a few strides that he generates off quick legs and that top speed is very dangerous to the point where he will make NHL defenders back up an extra few steps to keep him in front of them. Murphy moves well from a standstill and can make people miss by out-angling them and being elusive. Murphy also does not shy from using his best weapon, frequently taking the puck out from behind his net and taking it deep or skating around defenders in the offensive zone. Sometimes he can get overzealous when trying to create offense but he doesn’t make a high amount of bad decisions either.

Murphy’s puck skills are plus, with his ability to handle the puck at high speed being very good. His passes are crisp and accurate with his distribution skills being quite very good and for a player commonly labeled a puck-rusher, he sees the ice at a high level too. That is a good sign as likely when he gets to the pro game, he will likely be coached into toning down some of his superman acts with the puck and having the ability to be an above-average playmaker will help his power play value. When Murphy has the puck, he has the look of a unique player in how he moves around, makes people miss, and is aware of his surroundings. His shot is decent, and when he gets a full wind-up he can put some fine velocity on it.

The physical game is the biggest question mark on Murphy as he comes in at around 5’10", 165 lbs. and how he’ll handle that aspect at the top level is the biggest deterrent to his draft value. To his credit, Murphy isn’t afraid of contact but there are several times at the Junior level where bigger players would simply outmatch him. His defensive game has come a ways since last year as well. While I wouldn’t say his positioning is good, it’s decent for a Junior player but still grades as below-average. The lack of physical ability is the obvious liability going forward. He isn’t exactly completely shy from playing physical but there is nothing that stands out in that regard and how he builds his body in the coming years will be a significant key to his pro career and a risk for whoever drafts him.

Strengths: high-end skating, puck handling. Quality shot, on-ice vision.

Weaknesses: Size and strength.

Despite the size issue, Murphy is a legit prospect. He scored at the same rate as probable top-5 pick Gabriel Landeskog (1.25 PPG) in the same league and on the same team, excpet he did it from the blueline. His size is obviously the only reason he would ever fall withiin range of the Flames, which coincidentally is the same reason the Nashville Predators were able to grab Ryan Ellis at 11 in 2009. NHL Central Scouting ranked Murphy 9th amongst NA skaters while the ISS has him 8th overall. Pronman ranked Murphy the 6th best prospect.

As mentioned, I’d prefer the Flames target a forward in the first round. However, if Murphy falls a la Cam Fowler in 2010, I’d have absolutely no problems with the Flames scooping him up.

  • It’s either this guy, or McNeill, although I’d say McNeill is more likely to be around at 13. How about Tomas Jurco, he’s a sweet prospect with amazing puck-handling skills. I think he’s projected to go in the 20-30 range?

      • I agree with you Kent. While we should take a forward with our first round pick, I’m not sure we can pass this kid over if he falls to 13. I’ve always liked Dan Boyle. While he may never have Boyle’s physical game, I think Murphy will be better offensively.

        • I don’t know. I really like the kid’s skill set. It’s just his size that’s worrysome. Also, wasn’t Cam Fowler a little bit bigger when he was drafted than Murphy is right now?

          • Franko J

            You’re right. TSN lists Cam Fowler vitals at 6′ 1″, 190 lbs. Drew Doughty is listed at 6 feet even (granted he’s a stocky 212 lbs.).

            Again my preference is that we draft a forward but, if Dougie Hamilton or Murphy fell to 13 (unlikely but who would have thought that Fowler would have fallen to 12 last year), I don’t think I can fault the Flames for drafting them.

          • Franko J

            Oh okay, just wasn’t sure on the specifics.

            I wouldn’t be horribly disappointed if the Flames ended up drafting a defenseman. It’s probably unlikely that Hamilton will fall to us, but I’d draft Murphy. What about Joe Morrow or Duncan Siemens. I’ve also seen Oscar Klefbom hovering at or below 13. And there’s always Jamie Oleksiak hahahaha but I don’t think we’re in the market for a 6’7 defenseman right now.

      • I agree with you Kent. While we should take a forward with our first round pick, I’m not sure we can pass this kid over if he falls to 13. I’ve always liked Dan Boyle. While he may never have Boyle’s physical game, I think Murphy will be better offensively.

  • I like the kids skill set, obvious high points and obvious flare for the offensive. However that size, just is such a big red flag for a me. Would we have to use him in a limited role as we did Babchuk this year, utilize him in specialty situations and against favourable matchups so we don’t end up with say a Lucic battling against this guy and just easily out muscling him for any puck? Or a Crosby, everyone knows that one crosby play where he just plays with the puck on the end boards, with Crosbys strenght would a kid like this be able to really challenge him?

    I think we are all mostly in agreement that we all would like a forward. However should a Fowler situation arise, I don’t know how you don’t do it, BPA, same thing if a forward drops to.

    Now I don’t know all the ins and outs of the Ellis situation and why he’s not playing on the preds yet(size? Contract dispute? AHL vs NHL? Pairing?) but its something that if we draft this guy we should be really looking hard at, obviously we will have to let the guy play his two years or whatever in the OHL, NO WAY this guy is even close to physically ready to play defence in the NHL.

    • With Ellis the concern was his size in part. Also, the Preds are completely STACKED with young, burgeoning defenders (Weber, Suter, Franson, Blum) so it wouldn’t make sense to push Ellis into the NHL as a teenager. It’ll be interesting to see how he does next year, though, assuming he makes the team.

      As for Murphy, I don’t expect him to be 175 pounds forever. He’s 17 years old and to add 20 pounds isn’t a ridiculous expectation. As for comparables, perhaps Tobias Enstrom is the best one in the NHL right now. He’s the same size and weight as Murphy is right now, but scored 50 points in back-to-back seasons on a lousy ATL team.

  • Franko J

    Also just curious, I’m fron Airdrie, along with Ty Rattie. How come he has dropped down to the lower 20s and some don’t even have him in the first round at all anymore. Did he not perform well during the playoffs? From what I saw earlier, I expected him to be drafted around 15-20.

  • Franko J

    I find that if Sven Baertschi is available at 13 he would be my first choice. I believe he would be a great compliment to Max Reinhart. I really think Feaster and the scouts are looking to draft prospects which can be developed into legitimate NHL players. As well, I think they have learned from the embarassment from the Erixon fiasco and will draft a player in the first round who is genuine and wants to play for the flames.

  • Franko J

    I like Ty Rattie as well and I think he will go in the first round between the 20th to 30th pick. Every player after the “top 4 or 5” prospects have holes in their game, however, Rattie reminds me of one those players who is chosen in the later rounds and the 29 other teams are left second guessing.

  • Who do we take if Murphy, Bartschi, Zibanejad, & McNiell are all off the board? Armia?


    I’d be disappointed. I really hope McNiell is still there. For me, I’m not all that interested in a d-man at 13 if his name isn’t Hamilton or Murphy; maybe if the traded down 5+ spots (which depending on the reasoning/return, I’m not fond of either).


    Are you doing one on Puempel or Saad?

  • PrairieStew

    I’m going against the grain and suggesting that defensemen should be picked in this draft. Too often I think the draft focus is on current need, and the fact of the matter is that it is at least 2 to 3 years before your picks make your team and by then your needs change.

    In the system now there are 5 forwards entering just their second year of pro in Nemisz, Cameron, Wahl, Patterson, and Bouma. First year pros include Horak and Howse and possibly college graduates Aaron Marvin and CJ Sevryn (does anyone have more info on these guys ?) Next year you have Reinhart, Arnold, Ferland and Holland all turning pro. Those 2010 guys all made good progress last year and appear to have a good chance of playing pro. That’s potentially 11 guys drafted in a 3 year window. There might be 2 spots this year; and perhaps 4 more next year as there are currently only 4 NHL forwards under contract for 12-13.

    Contrast that with defense. We just traded away the only defenseman taken in the 2009 draft in Erixon – so likely no rookie pro d men this year. Second year guys are Brodie and Breen and third year pros Seabrook and Negrin need to step up this year to be strong AHLers this year if there is any hope of them making the show. Next year might see only one defense prospect going pro in Leach, as Ramage may stay at Wisconsin. The only one that looks like a sure bet at this point in Brodie and he may make the team this year. With contracts expiring on one of the top 4 d men each year for the next 3 years ( Sarich, Regehr and Bouwmeester) I see a greater need to draft a solid defenseman to step in in 13-14.

      • icedawg_42

        I’m with you on this – McNeill is my first choice, and barring your aforementioned players take Armia. A D-man with one of the second round picks would be ok, though I’d still like to see the other second rounder used on a forward.

    • Given the lack of a true playmaking centre and, perhaps, top 6 forwards in the organization, I would lean towards drafting a forward with that 13th overall pick. I would throw that strategy out the window if a truly exceptional defence prospect (i.e. Hamilton or Murphy) falls to that spot.

      If the latter scenario doesn’t develop (and I don’t think it will), then I say we use one of our second rounders to draft a defenceman. Other than Jamie Oleksiak and, perhaps, Joe Morrow, I can’t see any other defencemen moving into that 11 to 15 range.

      We also have to keep in mind that defence prospects typically develop slower than forwards so there may be kids who don’t “show” well now but could turn into decent prospects with some seasoning in junior or the AHL. For example, T.J. Brodie was a 4th Round pick. I’m not saying their approach is the way to go, but don’t the Flyers have the philosophy that they draft forwards and trade for or sign defencemen?

      Finally, I understand that 2012 is supposed to the year for defence prospects so it may be a better idea to use a first round pick on a defenceman next year.

    • Fair enough. The problem as I see is the total lack of high-end talent up front for the Flames. They may have a lot of guys up front graduating soon, but if even one of them turns into a top-6 forward at the NHL level, I’ll be extremely surprised. Max Reinhart might be the best of the bunch and he scored as many points as…17-year old Ryan Murphy this year.

      The Flames have an aging forward corps, particularly when it comes to their difference makers. Tanguay (assuming he re-signs), Iginla and Langkow are all 30+ and past their prime. It’s entirely possible that none of them will be with the team come July 2013 – and even if Jarome sticks around after the end of his current deal, he’ll be 36-years old. By that time, Jokinen will likely be gone, Bourque, Glencross and Moss will be 30+. The only guy who wont be on the wrong side of the curve in 3 three will be Mikael Backlund.

      Prime forwards drive results in this league and they are the hardest quantities to acquire either via trade or on the free agent market. I certainly accept that the Flames need talent EVERYWHERE, but if the choice is between impact forward or impact defender when 13 comes around, I still hope they go forward (unless the blueliner is the clear choice).

      • PrairieStew

        Of those 11 forward prospects I see mostly bottom 6 guys as well, so if they can get a true top 6 guy I wouldn’t be unhappy. I just worry about the defense cupboard with only Leach and Ramage there from the last 2 years.

  • Trade-wise… how do people feel about someone like Semyon Varlamov as a backup, or perhaps bringing Alexander Semin in? Varlamov is perpetually injured, and Semin disappears in the playoffs, but is there someway we could swing to bring either player in?

    Assuming Karlsson walks, bringing Varly in to provide a good backup might not be too bad of an idea. Someone like Semin to play second line right wing might not be too bad of an idea. It might end up costing the Flames an arm and a leg to do so, but could prove useful. Perhaps even crazy.

  • icedawg_42

    Murphy’s physical ame is fine except for in front of the net. He’s go a viscious hip check which he can unleash on unsuspecting players. Just ask Luke Schenn what happened in the U-20 WJ camp.
    He definitely needs to get stronger in the net, but he’s got a good stick and is very good at positioning himself in a way as to come up with the puck against all but the biggest and strongest forwards. Not many NHL dmen can easily handle a player like Lucic or Getzlaf or Ryan when they’re dominating the cycle.
    AS for Douggie Hamilton, he would be an absolute steal if he fell that low. He may not be the dynamic presence that Murphy is but he’s a smart, strong, smooth skating defenceman and those don’t come around too much. Think Brad Stuart with slightly better tools. He might even have Duncan Keith upside. He’s a very smart player who stepped it up in the POs when his team really needed him. His development curve is really steep right now. His offensive tools and his willingness to punish guys are really blossoming.