There were no extravagant celebrations, no huge smiles. Ryan Murray was all business.
Even when becoming the highest NHL draft pick in the history of the Everett Silvertips, Murray was his typical calm, cool and collected self.
Murray made franchise history when he was selected second overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft, held in Pittsburgh.
In the previous eight years, the earliest an Everett player was selected was eighth overall — center Peter Mueller was picked eighth by Phoenix in 2006, center Zach Hamill was taken eighth by Boston in 2007. But by being the second name called Friday Murray set a lofty new standard.
After the Blue Jackets called his name, Murray calmly hugged his family members, as well as his Everett billet, Parker Fowlds, who he had flown to the draft, before heading to the stage.
“It was a long day, my heart was pounding all day,” Murray told the Blue Jackets’ website. “I was really excited and nervous, and I’m just really relieved and really honored to be a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.”
Murray said he didn’t receive any strong indications before the draft that Columbus wanted to pick him, but that he was happy to be selected by the Blue Jackets.
“I’m really proud and I heard great things from (Blue Jackets defenseman and Canadian national squad teammate) Marc Methot,” Murray added. “He said he really likes playing there. He’s told me great things about it and I’m very happy.”
Murray spent the previous three seasons marshaling the blue line for the Tips. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of White City, Saskatchewan, was Everett’s first-round pick in the 2008 bantam draft, being picked ninth overall. He was a standout the moment he made his Western Hockey League debut as a 15-year-old during the 2009 playoffs. This season he had nine goals and 22 assists in 46 games. He was named Everett’s MVP each of the past two seasons.
Murray also has represented Canada at every age level. Over the past year he’s donned the maple leaf at the U-18, U-20 and even men’s level.
Murray’s best attributes are his skating, his ability in his own end, his hockey sense, his work ethic and his leadership. The total package was too much for the Blue Jackets to pass up.
“We watched him closely all year and saw what he did in the world championships,” Columbus general manager Scott Howson said on the television broadcast. “He’s got a great pedigree. He’s coming to a group of defensemen in Columbus that’s the strongest part of our team, so he’s going to get to play with some really good players. We’re just delighted that we’re moving forward with this group.”
Prior to the draft there was speculation that Murray might be taken first overall by the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton, which picked forwards Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in the previous two drafts, was possibly leaning toward drafting a defenseman. In addition, Oilers president Kevin Lowe, who’s also Hockey Canada’s general manager, selected Murray to play for Canada at the Men’s World Championships in May. However, the Oilers decided to pick winger Russian Nail Yakupov, the consensus top prospect, first overall.
Being picked by Columbus reunites Murray with his former coach in Everett, Craig Hartsburg. Hartsburg was hired Wednesday by the Blue Jackets to serve as the team’s associate coach. Hartsburg led the Tips from 2009-11, coaching Murray during his 16- and 17-year-old seasons.
“He’s a great coach,” Murray said. “He coached me for two years in Everett and he’s taught me a lot. I’m glad he’s there and he’s a guy you can learn a lot from.”
Barring an NHL lockout, the selection lessens the chance Murray will be back in Everett next season as a 19-year-old. Columbus has a history of keeping first-round picks from the WHL as 19-year-olds. The Blue Jackets kept Portland’s Ryan Johansen as a 19-year-old last season, and they kept Vancouver’s Gilbert Brule in 2006.
“That’s what I want to do, I want to jump into there as soon as I can,” Murray said. “But I have a lot of work to do this summer.”
Rounds two through seven commence today, with Everett defenseman Nick Walters expected to be picked. Also, two NCAA-committed players acquired by Everett in May, winger Jujhar Khaira and defenseman Reece Willcox, are also expected to be selected.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.