As the draft gets into its later rounds, every player will have his flaws and finding a player who can make an impcat in the NHL will get more difficult. The hope is that you can find a player being overlooked or someone who has yet to put it all together but has the ability to. As a player in Junior A waiting to jump to the NCAA in a year, could big forward Brett Murray be one of those players?
Who is Brett Murray?
Brett Murray is a left-winger who was most recently with the Carleton Place Canadians of the Junior A-level Central Canada Hockey League and who is currently committed to Penn State for the 2017-18 season. Murray, who was born July 20, 1998 will be on the young side of this year's draftees, being less than two months away from waiting for the 2017 NHL Draft. Despite being young for this draft year, Murray is a player who boasts tremendous size, already checking in at 6-foot-5 and 211 pounds, according to the CCHL website. For a player who has not yet reached 18 years of age, that type of size will catch a lot of teams' attention. His stats can be found below, courtesy of Elite Prospects:
Murray's stats are decent but aren't going to grab too much attention on their own since he's coming from a step below the CHL level in Junior A. His game overall has definitely drawn some eyes, though, as Murray was declared the top prospect in the CCHL by the league for the 2015-16 season. He is touted as a player who possesses offensive skill, but also the awareness to make him a two-way player. The one attribute that likely draws the most attention though, is his size. Murray would already be a big NHLer and he's just 17 years old. The words "power forward" are sure to come up a lot during his evaluation. Size is just one portion of the equation for any prospect, though, and while Murray has that in spades, he is still a bit of a long-term project overall, which is why he projects as a mid-round pick rather than a blue-chipper.
Regarding his rankings, Murray seems to project somewhere in the fourth round or later in the 2016 draft. The NHL's Central Scouting placed him at #83 among North American skaters, which probably puts him somewhere in the fourth round in terms of CSS projections. Elsewhere, being a mid-to-late round pick, Murray doesn't show up in most of the rankings that only go up to 30, 60, or 100, but he's projected to go in the third round on Draft Site and then ranked at #202 over at The Draft Analyst, so opinions are definitely varied.
What Others are Saying About Brett Murray
Murray is not necessarily a top prospect, but there's a decent amount of material out there on him. As mentioned earlier, he was named the CCHL's top prospect at the end of this past season. Here's what was said about him in the release:
Known as a big two-way forward who shows awareness with and without the puck. He offers strong playmaking ability to go along with a good release. He sees the ice well and will battle for position whether it’s in the open ice or in the corners. Not afraid to go to the net
Obviously, an award announcement is generally going to put an extra positive spin on a player, but if the CCHL considers him its best and brightest, it at least mitigates some of the negatives of him only being in Junior A this past season. He's a project, but he might have enough skill and the smarts to put that big frame to good use at the next level.
In general, the feeling seems to be that he has some good awareness and some decent offensive tools to go along with that attention-grabbing frame. For instance, these comments from ISS director of scouting Dennis MacInnis in an interview with Jeff Gard at Northumberland Today paint a pretty positive picture of the Murray:
Big frame with plenty of room to fill out. Good skater for a player of his size, and demonstrates good hockey sense. Consistently able to find holes in the defence and get open to create scoring chances. Good stick when attacking the puck carrier. A longer-term developmental curve, but projects as a solid two-way power forward.
So, a solid skater and a player with a good eye for the game seems to be the takeaway here. Again, it will be some time before you'd expect him to have an impact, but he could have the ability and wherewithal to make good on that "power forward" label he'll inevitably be saddled with.
Sleeper with terrific size, good strength, and surprising skating agility. Handles the puck very well, and is not shy about using his size to get his way. Has some offensive upside and scouts will give him close looks as the draft gets closer.
So despite being a big guy, it seems that he can skate pretty well and his offensive skill has been praised in multiple locations. If he does have the tools to be a strong offensive playmaker to go with his size then he has a good chance to succeed down the road.
A Little Video
Unfortunately, since he's in the CCHL, there really isn't much of any video out there on Murray. The CCHL website purports to have video of some goals, but the quality is not great and many don't seem to show the goal they say they do. Otherwise, there is this short profile below that he did for the Carleton Place Canadians this season.
An Opinion of Sorts
Looking a Brett Murray as a prospect, the first thing that will obviously jump out is his size. The old cliche about size is that you can't teach it, which is, of course, true, but it can also lead to values getting over-inflated sometimes so one should be weary of putting too many eggs in that basket. Murray isn't just a straight up bruiser or grinder, though, he seems to have some skill and sense to go with that big frame. He's definitely a project, but he'll be one of the younger players in this class, and with him planning on going to the NCAA in 2017, he'll have plenty of time to develop before a team has to make a decision on him. He could be a decent guy to take a flyer on as it gets later in the draft. I wouldn't spend a third-round pick on him and even a fourth feels like maybe little bit of a stretch for guy who didn't necessarily overwhelm the Junior A ranks but I think he'd be a defensible selection once you get past the 100th-pick range and could be a nice player to take a flyer on if he's there in the later rounds.
So what are your thoughts on Brett Murray? Do you like what you've heard from him as a player? Do you think someone will reach too far for him because of his size? Or could his combination of skill and size make him a real sleeper who is flying under the radar in the Junior A level before he gets to the NCAA? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.