Breaking Down Ryan Murphy's Development in Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 Season
The 20-year-old, a 12th overall pick in 2011, has played his way up from a training camp question mark to a nightly top-four stud, bailing out veteran partner Jay Harrison on many occasions and steadily increasing his ice time game by game.
As the end of October approaches, Murphy is set to conclude the month as the only Hurricanes' blueliner with a positive plus/minus rating.
Murphy is tied with Nashville's Seth Jones and Vancouver's Ryan Stanton for second among all rookie defensemen with five points, trailing only Boston's (much more experienced) rookie Torey Krug. He's also tied for sixth for the 'Canes in scoring.
His first (and so far only) career goal may have come on a lucky deflection, but the end-to-end attack that preceded it was certainly no mere stroke of fortune. Plays like that have added a new dimension to the Hurricanes' power play (Murphy ranks third with 3:23 minutes of power-play ice time per game) and helped to reduce Carolina's obnoxious affection towards dump-and-chase zone entries.
Yet those impressive rankings mark just the tip of Murphy's impressive statistical iceberg. The Kitchener Rangers product leads all Carolina rearguards and all but four forwards with a stellar 55.3 shot attempt (Corsi) rating and a 53.6 Fenwick ratio, per Extra Skater data.
After an unreliable four-game emergency call-up during the desperate train wreck known as the 2012-13 season, Murphy's defensive positioning and physicality have also been much improved this autumn.
No. 7's 18 blocked shots trail only Andrej Sekera for the team lead—a rather remarkable accomplishment for a 5'10" player with less-than-maximum reach. His eight takeaways to date are also spotted behind just Sekera and Eric Staal for the highest total on the 'Canes.
Said Murphy in a Tuesday column by NHLPA reporter Chris Lomon:
I suppose if you could boil it down to one thing I try to do every time I’m out there, it’s a mindset of ‘Don’t let them get by me.' When you are on the ice against a guy like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, or John Tavares, you know what you have to do. It’s not an easy challenge, but’s it’s one you get up for and one you welcome.
Whether or not Murphy can continue this increasingly upward development curve throughout the season is unclear. His undersized frame may eventually form into an obstacle that could define Murphy's role in the coming decade.
Is his 28-year-old self going to be a power-play specialist with some defensive responsibilities, like Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and Lubomir Visnovsky today?
Or will he be a wholly well-rounded, top-pairing star in the mold of Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber or even teammate Justin Faulk?
That's for the remaining 70—and hopefully more—games of the 2013-14 season to determine.
For the moment, however, Murphy's improvement is showing no signs of slowing down.
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