Points of Comparison for Ryan Murphy

How much of a shot does Ryan Murphy have to play successfully in the NHL at age 18? How successful a career will he have? I went looking for points of comparison to make it easier to speculate. But first let me mention Sittler's key point about Murphy's ability to dodge hits. That may be as important as scoring ability in allowing Murphy to play immediately in the NHL. Murphy will have to fit into a pairing and a system too.

That said, for this comparison, I looked for small defensemen who have succeeded in the NHL and who left behind statistics from major junior hockey when they were around Murphy's age in the OHL this year. Some of the comparables I was most curious about played in college or in other countries so there's no basis for comparison (for example, Enstrom). I went back to 1996 for data on Brian Campbell. I don't know if the comparisons over that much time are valid, but you've got to be impressed with where Murphy ranks against similar players over a 15-year span. Maybe the people who call Murphy a generational player weren't just wowed by watching him - maybe they checked the numbers too.

I included one player who isn't really small and three besides Murphy who haven't yet made it in the NHL: Ryan Ellis, Calvin de Haan and Bobby Sanguinetti. Drew Doughty is listed because I wanted his scoring numbers as a point of reference. I included Bobby Sanguinetti mostly because he's offensively talented and plays in the Canes' system. Frankly, I was surprised how well he fares in the comparisons. Sanguinetti is 6'3" so he's fairly tall, but more than a few guys on the list of "small" players below outweigh him. He probably should be compared with defensemen on this list, not with 6'3" 220 pounders.

Summarizing the performance numbers: Ryan Murphy topped everybody at age 17 except Ryan Ellis in overall scoring and Murphy topped everybody in goal scoring.

Is anybody else as surprised as I am that Sanguinetti in junior was one of the better goal scorers among the high-powered defensemen listed? When you recall that he also won the AHL's fastest skater award, he's got some gifts that are elite. Sanguinetti scored almost twice as many goals as Cam Fowler in same-age years in junior and Sanguinetti's per-game point production was just about identical to Fowler's. Very impressive. But then, Murphy scored more than three times as many goals as Fowler and a quarter of a point more per game! 

Expecting Murphy to beat or tie Ellis in the race for an NHL roster spot seems unreasonable when Ellis was drafted two years earlier and hasn't made it yet and neither has Sanguinetti or de Haan. Then again, Fowler did make it right away. Based on the table below, you would have to say chances are very high that both Murphy and Sanguinetti will succeed as offensive defensemen in the NHL someday.

If the table gives anybody reading this an opinion about Murphy's making the Canes' roster this year, please let the rest of us in on the secret.

Ages are calculated for September 23 going into the season listed.

Offensive Defensemen in Major Junior at 17
Age Season Player Team Games Goals A P PPG
17.72 2008-2009 Ryan Ellis Windsor 57 22 67 89 1.56
17.48 2010-2011 Ryan Murphy Kitchener 63 26 53 79 1.25
17.57 2004-2005 Kris Letang Val-d'Or Foreurs 60 25 43 68 1.13
16.79 2006-2007 Drew Doughty Guelph 67 21 53 74 1.10
17.90 2008-2009 Dmitry Kulikov Drummondville 57 12 50 62 1.09
17.80 2009-2010 Cam Fowler Windsor 55 8 47 55 1.00
17.56 2005-2006 Bobby Sanguinetti Owen Sound 68 14 51 65 0.96
17.37 2008-2009 Calvin de Haan Oshawa 68 8 55 63 0.93
17.59 2005-2006 Ivan Vishnevskiy Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 54 13 35 48 0.89
17.36 2006-2007 PK Subban Belleville Bulls 68 15 41 56 0.82
17.33 1996-1997 Brian Campbell Ottawa 67s 66 7 36 43 0.65
17.58 2001-2002 James Wisniewski Plymouth 62 11 25 36 0.58
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