Coming into this season Ryan Murray seemed to be two steps ahead of the rest of the draft class from the WHL.
Now that we're closing in on the playoffs, I can say that my feelings haven't changed one bit. Not only is Murray an excellent example of a two way defenceman, he's also likely the most NHL ready blueliner to come out of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Murray missed the cutoff for the 2011 NHL Draft by only 12 days, meaning he is one of the older players in 2012's class. It also means that he's had that extra 6-12 months to display his talents, when compared to many of his counterparts.
But, don't let that fool you. That's not the main reason why he's considered tops in the class. He's ranked 1st on almost every list in regards to defenceman simply because he's very talented and he projects well to the pro game.
When watching Murray, the first thing that comes to the forefront is his skating. He's an excellent skater and really makes things look effortless out on the ice. He uses that ability to lead the rush and jump into the rush. He also puts up offence because he's a strong passer and has a very good shot from the point.
His numbers might be a bit disappointing (21 points in 30 games so far for Everett), but I can assure you it's not because of a lack of skill. If he wasn't playing on a team that had 17 more losses than wins and scored the third fewest goals of any WHL club, we'd see point per game numbers from Murray, if not better than that.
The kid really is the total package as he's also more than capable as a defender. He's not overly physical but he's excellent in his positioning and stick work. His skating also comes to the forefront on the defensive side of the puck.
He also comes with leadership capabilities, as he's the captain for the Silvertips. That's an honour he's had since he was a young 17 year old, a feat not often seen in junior hockey.
Overall I don't have many knocks on Murray. If there was one complaint, it would be that he plays a very vanilla game. He won't wow you shift after shift, he's just very calculated and rarely makes mistakes. I would also like to see him be a bit more aggressive on the offensive side of the puck.
Will Ryan Murray be the first defenceman drafted in the 2012 NHL Draft? I sure think so as it's pretty tough to pass on a guy that plays very similarly to NHL great Scott Niedermayer.