Murray has strong ties with Oilers, Edmonton
Top-ranked defenceman Ryan Murray arrives in Edmonton to visit the Oilers
|Ryan Murray arrives at the Edmonton International Airport.
WATCH VIDEO: Murray Arrives in Edmonton
Back in December, the 18-year-old donned Canada's iconic red and white colours at the 2012 World Junior Championship, calling Rexall Place home and suiting up in 13-year NHL veteran Andy Sutton's stall, right next to the all-important iPod dock beneath the coaches' white board.
"That dressing room is pretty unbelievable -- the nicest one I've ever been in," Murray said as we caught up with him at the Edmonton International Airport Thursday night. "It was really cool that the Oilers let us use it.
"It was pretty incredible [to play at Rexall Place]. The crowd was unbelievable here. It was so loud in there -- the loudest building I've ever been in. It was an unbelievable experience being able to play in front a crowd like that."
Five months later, Team Canada came calling once more. Canadian GM and Oilers President of Hockey Operations, Kevin Lowe, brought him over to Helsinki to play on the world stage -- against and alongside seasoned pros, such as Dion Phaneuf and Duncan Keith.
Keith, a Norris Trophy recipient in 2010, has been Murray's longtime idol. While simply getting the chance to compete was a big enough moment, shacking up beside his role model in Team Canada's locker room was something on another level.
"It was incredible," Murray said, grinning ear-to-ear. "He really made me feel comfortable and helped me settle down a little bit, because I was pretty nervous at the beginning. He talked me through some things and helped me along.
"I tried to sit back, watch and see everything that was going on -- how [pros] prepare and what they do on the ice. I wanted to take everything in."
In the end, Murray dressed in six games. While he didn't register a point, he did collect a +1 rating in over 47 minutes of total ice time. Following a season in which he scored nine goals and 31 points in an abbreviated, 46-game season with the WHL's Everett Silvertips, he couldn't ask for anything more.
As a result, he ended the 2011-12 campaign ranked second among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Considering the Oilers' need to acquire a high-end rearguard, particularly one in Murray's all-encompassing puck-moving ilk, it's quite possible he lands in Oil Country on June 22 in Pittsburgh.
And that would be A-OK with Murray, who's visibly excited about the possibility. His ties with the Oilers were strengthened in Helsinki, building an invaluable rapport that others haven't had the opportunity to.
"I got to know [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Devan Dubnyk] a bit in Finland," he said. "They're all really good guys, really great guys. I got to hang out with Nuge quite a bit – I knew him a little bit before, but I roomed with him over there, too, so that was pretty cool."
He wouldn't dish any dirt on any bad roommate habits, though.
"Nah, he's a pretty normal guy," Murray laughed.
"I got to know Eberle a little bit, too. He's from Regina, which is right by my home town (White City, Saskatchewan). It was cool to meet and play with those guys."
Since the Worlds, Murray has been as busy as can be. Just last week, he participated in the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. In total, he conducted interviews with 16 teams prior to the weekend's dreaded physical/medical session at the International Centre near Pearson Airport.
Although he lost his lunch as the Wingate Cycle Ergometer claimed another victim prior to the VO2 Max, it was a good experience.
"It was pretty tough, pretty gruesome. I'm glad it's over," Murray chuckled.
"But overall, it was good. It was nice to give teams an opinion on my game. [Kevin Lowe] was there and I felt really comfortable with Edmonton. They all seemed nice and were really good guys. They made me feel comfortable; most of the teams did, most of the teams were very welcoming. I think it went well."
Prior to arriving in Edmonton, Murray had visits with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. But he's especially excited about meeting with Edmonton once more on what promises to be a busy Friday at Rexall Place.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's another opportunity to prove myself and another opportunity to get to know them a little more."
No question, the Oilers have something similar in mind. And with only 14 days to go, every little chance to make an impression could create a lasting one.
"I've done everything I can do (on the ice) at this point -- a couple more interviews to go and then the big day comes along. I'm really looking forward to Pittsburgh."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick