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Blake Murray: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Goal Scoring Center With High Upside

Blake Murray is a talented, goal scoring center that saw his draft stock fall from that of a 1st round talent to that of a mid or late round pick. This profile will take a look at what makes Murray an intriguing option from NHL teams on Day 2 of the draft.

Sudbury Wolves v Niagara IceDogs
ST CATHARINES, ON - OCTOBER 4: Blake Murray #92 of the Sudbury Wolves deflects the puck past Stephen Dhillon #30 of the Niagara IceDogs during the first period of an OHL game at Meridian Centre on October 4, 2018 in St Catharines, Canada.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Every seasons various prospects see their draft stock fall throughout the year. In Blake Murray’s case, he saw his stock fall from that of a potential first rounder to that of a player that could get called anywhere in the later rounds of the draft. Inconsistent production and concerns about his lack of strength certainly have hurt him however he does still possesses some high upside that could see him be a worthwhile gamble for some team. This profile will take a look at Murray so we can get to know more about this polarizing, but intriguing prospect.

Who is Blake Murray?

According to his OHL page, Blake Murray is a 6’3, 185 lbs., left-handed shooting center from Uxbridge, Ontario. He was born on July 5, 2001 thus making him one of the younger prospects in this year’s draft class. Thanks to his EliteProspects page, we can see how he developed prior to spending the past 2 seasons with the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL.

Murray played his bantam and minor midget hockey with the Central Ontario Wolves program from 2014-16. He moved on to the Whitby Wildcats Minor Midget AAA team for the 2016-17 season where he put up 29 goals and 26 assists in 35 regular season games. Those 29 goals and 55 points would lead his team in regular season action. He was effective in the playoffs as well with 3 goals and 7 assists in 6 games, leading his team in assists and points. That strong season would lead to Murray being selected 7th overall by Sudbury in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection Draft.

Murray would make his debut as a 16 year old rookie for a rebuilding Sudbury team in the 2017-18 season. In 57 regular season games he put up 23 goals and 23 assists while averaging 1.79 shots per game and winning 51.1% of his faceoffs. It is worth noting that he shot at 20.59% that season so it definitely seems like a quite a few bounces went his way. Regardless, he finished 3rd in goals among rookies with 21, only trailing Andrei Svechnikov (40) and Arthur Kaliyev (31). He ranked 6th in assists (23) and 5th in points (44) among the OHL rookies. Those totals were also good to give Murray the team lead in goals and points among the Wolves. Murray would also represent Canada Black U17 at the U17 World Hockey Championships where he would appear in 5 games without a point.

The 2018-19 season would see Murray continue to be an important part of a still rebuilding Sudbury team. In 66 regular season games he would put up 30 goals and 20 assists while averaging 2.55 shots per game and winning 54.37% of his faceoffs. It was encouraging to see him improve on his shots per game rate and faceoff percentage. He still maintained a high shooting percentage though it did fall slightly to 17.86%. Murray once again led the Wolves in goals and finished 3rd on the team in points. This past spring, Murray would make his OHL Playoffs debut with 4 goals, an assist, and 18 shots across 8 games.

Where is Blake Murray Ranked?

The common trend in the majority of these rankings is that Murray was highly touted as a potential 1st round prospect prior to the season. It seems he just continued to slip in almost all of the rankings with the exception of Larry Fisher’s over at The Hockey Writers. Fisher’s rankings suggests that Murray was able to finish the year out strong enough to get himself back in the mid round range for the draft. Based on all of these rankings, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Murray go anywhere from the 4th to 7th round.

What Others Say About Blake Murray

First, let’s take a look at some of what OHL expert Brock Otten had to say about Murray over at OHL Prospects. He ranked Murray #10 in his Top 50 OHL Players for the 2019 Draft. When describing his current game, Otten had this to say about Murray:

He’s a good skater, but not a great one. His physical game is inconsistent. He has a good shot, but at times he hangs on to the puck too long. There are just too many shifts where he is not a factor.

Otten then goes on to say this about Murray’s potential development:

I think that as he fills out his 6’3 frame, he could develop into a real beast in the offensive zone. Adding strength is going to be key for him, as it will allow him to be more effective below the hash marks and allow him to be more effective cutting through the neutral zone as a force in transition from down the middle. Another key is finding more consistency in his physicality and overall effort without the puck.

I thought this final part was really interesting from Otten:

But as I said, 6’3, goal scoring centers do not grow on trees. If you’re drafting outside the first round, aren’t these the type of guys you take a chance on in hopes that they can put everything together?

It seems like Murray has quite a ways to go in his development and will have to be viewed as a project pick. Any team that takes him will have to remain patient and hope that more time in juniors and eventually the AHL will help Murray develop into a center with a goal scoring touch. It does seem like a lot of the areas his game is lacking in right now are all things that he has the ability to work on to get better.

Back in February, Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers put together this profile on Murray. He seems to agree with Otten that Murray’s game is inconsistent though it appears he rates Murray’s skating a little bit higher. Here is part of what he had to say about Murray from an offensive standpoint:

He’s a very good skater and as long as adding the necessary bulk doesn’t affect his stride we aren’t going to worry about his feet. He’s good on the forecheck and goes into battle along the walls, but again, adding muscle will be key for him going forward.

Murray isn’t afraid to take the puck to the net himself. He’s surprisingly strong on his skates and uses body position extremely well to protect the puck, and he can do that at top speed. Despite being a shooter first, Murray does have soft hands and very good vision and the ability to become an effective playmaker.

In regards to Murray’s defensive game:

On the defensive side of the puck, Murray shows an understanding of three-zone play. He knows where to be on the ice and most of the time he puts in a concerted effort. Finding that consistency mentioned earlier is important going forward.

Once again, it seems like Murray has some of the best potential out of the OHL players in this year’s draft class. A lot of his issues seem like things that can be improved upon through hardwork and patience. I like that he has the ability to create plays on offense and understands the defensive duties assigned to him. Hopefully he can fill out his frame and find a more consistent level to his game.

A Little Video

Puck Prodigy on YouTube has the below 2018-19 highlights package of Blake Murray. You can really see his natural goal scoring talent with his quick release and instincts that put himself in good positions to get pucks on the net. Throughout the package you can see him score from breakaways, odd man rushes, by screening the goaltender, and coming in from the wing. He also did a solid job of helping to set up his teammates. I found it interesting that he was scoring in even strength, power play, and short handed situations which shows that the coaching staff definitely views him as an asset to the team.

If you want to see Murray outside of a highlights package, then check out this shift by shift video from his rookie season in the OHL:

An Opinion of Sorts

Blake Murray is one of those prospects that I am really interested in following, but not necessarily interested in seeing the Devils draft. I like that he’s a goal scoring center with a quick release on his shot, that he can score from multiple areas and in different strength situations, and that he is able to make highly skilled plays to help his teammates. I’m intrigued by his 6’3 frame and wonder if he can take his game to another level once he has more strength.

With that said, I worry about his lack of consistency, both in production and effort. It seems multiple accounts have been taken about how different he can look on a game to game and shift to shift basis. I’m concerned that it’s been reported that he tends to shy away from contact and can play smaller than his size. When it comes to being a fit for the Devils, I’m not encouraged by the reports on his skating being just “good”. I have my doubts about how he will be able to transition to the professional level. It seems like Murray could end up being one of those excellent junior players that struggles to make any meaningful impact at the professional level. While I think he is a worthwhile gamble, I’d prefer to see the Devils take a chance on a player in the later rounds that skates better and competes harder.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Blake Murray as a prospect? Would you be in favor of seeing the Devils select him with a mid to late round pick? What parts of his game that stand out to you in a positive or negative way? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!