It’s been a trying, injury-plagued couple of years for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray.
A shoulder injury limited him to only 23 games in 2012-13, his final season in the WHL. Then it was a knee injury that cut out a handful of games in 2013-14, as well as the start of 2014-15. And if those weren’t enough, Murray was felled by a freak high-ankle sprain that occurred on February 6th. All in all, the young blueliner would only appear in 12 games during this past season.
But don’t let all that fool you: injuries or not, Murray is on the verge of breaking out in a big way this upcoming season.
Murray, the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is a smart, smooth, two-way defender that is capable of logging big minutes in all situations and at both ends of the ice. In his 66-game rookie season he already averaged 19:52 of time on ice per-game and was more than reliable in the process, suggesting that an increase in his role with the team would eventually come with time.
That time wouldn’t be last season, as Murray’s TOI was cut to 18:54 per game and he was given easier assignments as Columbus was trying to ease him back from injury. However, now healthy and already back to on-ice training, Murray is in a prime position to take on that bigger role with the Blue Jackets in 2015-16.
“I’ve been on the ice for almost two months now,” Murray said recently, as reported by NHL.com. “I’ve done some things differently this summer, changed it up a bit; the workouts have been less weight-based and more body and movement-focused things.
“I spent part of the summer at home in Saskatchewan, hanging out with my friends and family, relaxing, playing golf, and it was great. It was good to go home and recharge, and now I’m back here and ready to work.”
It’s more than evident that the Blue Jackets have left the door wide open for Murray to step through it. The 28th-ranked team in the league last season for shots allowed, Columbus is far from one of the league’s top defensive teams. Yet, in spite of this, veteran minute-muncher James Wisniewski was traded to the Anaheim Ducks prior to last year’s trade deadline and was never replaced, while the team’s remaining elder statesman of the defense, Fedor Tyutin, is now 32 and slowing down. With only Jack Johnson and David Savard also in the mix for Top 4 spots on the team’s blueline, Columbus is clearly counting on a big season from Murray.
Murray, for his part, is more than capable of meeting those expectations, as evidenced by his impressive rookie season, as well as past standout performances for Team Canada at the World U18s, World Juniors, and World Championships. If he can finally avoid the injury bug and stay healthy throughout the course of the season then the sky is the limit for one of the league’s top young defenders.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL