Ryan Murphy anxiously waited Thursday afternoon as Hockey Canada announced roster cuts, one by one by one, to the National Junior Team representing in this year's IIHF World Junior Championship. The nineteen-year-old defenseman, drafted by the Hurricanes in the first round of the 2011 NHL entry draft, was cut from the roster on the last day of the previous two Team Canada camps, but the third time proved to be the charm. Murphy will make his IIHF World Junior Championship debut on December 26th in Ufa, Russia.
Murphy, currently the captain of the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, was understandably nervous as Team Canada camp opened on Tuesday. Known as an offensive defenseman, Murphy attempted to change his style of play in last year's camp to meet a defense-oriented system and was not successful (neither was Team Canada as they finished a disappointing third in the tournament). With this year's squad expected to execute a more up-tempo style, and featuring NHL-caliber players such as Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and returning prospects Dougie Hamilton (Boston), Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg) and Jonathan Huerberdeau (Florida), hope is renewed for a better outcome this year.
Murphy will find himself with a very familiar face behind the bench. Kitchener head coach and general manager Steve Spott will serve as head coach for the National Junior Team, so he brings plenty of experience in showcasing Murphy's outstanding skating and puck-handling skills. Spott and Murphy have a strong coach/player relationship, to the extent that Spott almost considered pranking him over the announcement (check out more in this excellent feature from Sunaya Sapurji of Yahoo Sports).
Murphy was drafted 12th overall by the Hurricanes in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and was signed to an entry level contract in September 2011. In August, he helped Canada's National Junior Team to victory at the Canada-Russia Challenge, and he has tallied 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists) in 31 games this season with the Rangers.