Hockey Canada’s selection camp for the National Junior Team will conclude Thursday, when Head Coach Steve Spott and his staff introduce 23 of the country’s best players who will represent Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Spott may be far from the comforts of the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, but he’s not alone. Rangers captain Ryan Murphy made the trip to Calgary to audition for Team Canada, his third consecutive appearance at selection camp. The offensively-talented defencemen has already represented the nation once this year, helping the team to victory in the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge. As he packed his bags and headed west to Canada Olympic Park, he was ready to build on that performance.
“I just want to go out there and play the same game that I did in the summer. I thought I did well, that I showed everyone how I can play – my style and my role. I want to build on that and hopefully I’ll make the lineup.”
His long-time Kitchener coach is rooting for him to make the cut this year, but admits there are challenges ahead for Murphy. The two sat down at The Aud to talk about expectations when invitations were announced and Spott says he has a level of trust in his captain after a solid performance in the summer series.
“I think Ryan brings something that is unique. He has the ability, on an Olympic-sized ice surface, to really dismantle a team’s forecheck with how elusive he is, how evasive he is. The challenge for him 5-on-5 is going to be competing against bigger, stronger men. He’s had to do it his whole career. I’m comfortable with it and I think that this summer, Andre [Tourigny], Mario [Duhamel] and Don Nachbaur were comfortable with it too,” he explains, adding that Murphy still has work to do to earn his place on the team.
“Now it’s a matter of having a good camp so that everyone has the same comfort zone that I do. He was great this summer. I don’t think he’s put up the numbers he’s wanted to at the start of this season, that’s a given – but I think that goes for a lot of players on the Rangers right now.”
Both Murphy and Spott feel that the key for Ryan is to play his game. Last year, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect was disappointed to be left off of the roster and felt he had gotten away from his style, opting instead to focus on defensive play in his own zone. Selected as the Best Offensive Defenceman in the 2012 Western Conference coaches poll, this year he’s ready to step up and show off the skills that make him special, just like his coach told him to do. Spott says Murphy doesn’t have to stick to the blueline if he can play his own game well.
“We’ve got guys like [London Knights blueliner] Scott Harrington to do that, that’s what I told him. Scott Harrington is a world-class, shutdown defenceman. Ryan needs to show that he can play defensively, that he can be responsible with the puck in our end, but ultimately he needs to play his game,” he explains. And Spott believes that is a lesson Murphy learned on his own at last December’s camp.
“I think that having me there will help him, but really, I think after last year he feels guilty that he didn’t do that, that he changed his game for a week and ultimately it bit him in the backside. I think we’ll see him play his game, but he has to be an even or plus player, he realizes that, and he has to make sure he manages the puck the right way. If he turns over the puck, if he throws bad passes then it’ll scare us. And he knows there’s competition.”
The fourth-year Rangers veteran is well aware that his road to Ufa will not be easy, even with a friendly face behind the bench. He survived the first round of cuts Wednesday evening, but he’s not expecting any special treatment and he knows that all eyes are on him as he looks to don the red and white jersey this holiday season. But Murphy is hopeful that having Spott at the helm with help him relax and focus on what he does best.
“He’s told me nothing’s set in stone. There are a lot of great players in this country and it’s a really tough lineup to crack. But maybe I have that comfort level with Coach Spott behind the bench. He’s been my coach now for four years and he’s taught me both sides of the game. He has faith in me so I just have to go out and prove to everyone else that I can play a two-way game.”
For more information on Hockey Canada’s Selection Camp for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @HockeyCanada.