RALEIGH — A year ago, the Carolina Hurricanes used their first-round draft pick on a Kitchener Rangers forward who was lacking size but had serious offensive skills.
Jeff Skinner turned out quite well for the Canes.
The Hurricanes may not have drafted another Skinner this year - Skinner did score 31 goals and win the Calder Trophy - but they did take another undersized player from Kitchener with a nice scoring touch. With the 12th overall selection of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, Carolina picked Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy.
Many draft analysts believed Murphy would go among the first 10 picks. The 5-foot-10, 166-pound native of Aurora, Ontario, was rated ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
But Murphy was there when the 12th pick came up. The Canes didn't hesitate.
"We're really excited," Hurricanes president and general manager Rutherford said. "We weren't expecting Ryan to slip that far. We thought he was going to go in the top 10."
Murphy and Skinner were teammates in Kitchener during the 2009-10 season. Skinner had 70 goals in the regular season and playoffs while Murphy had six goals and 33 assists in the regular season, then 17 points in the playoffs.
While Skinner was turning heads in the NHL this past season, Murphy was boosting his offensive numbers. He had 26 goals and 53 assists for the Rangers, and his 79 points were the most among draft-eligible Ontario Hockey League defensemen.
Playing for Team Canada in the 2011 Under-18 World Championships in Germany, Murphy led all defensemen with 13 points and was named the top defenseman of the tournament, even as Canada finished fourth.
"He's the best offensive defenseman in the draft," Tony MacDonald, the Canes' director of amateur scouting, said before the draft. "He's a power-play quarterback who distributes the puck pretty well. The concern, if there is a concern, would be size. But we've all been convinced by those undersized defensemen who are contributing to their teams in a significant way."
Murphy, 18, didn't sound that disappointed about dropping down in the draft, which was held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and concludes today.
"The number doesn't bother me," he said. "In a couple of years no one is going to be able to tell me what number I came into the NHL. I'm glad I'm going to a team that wants me in Carolina, and I can't wait to start."
Murphy did say there may be a misconception about his style of play - that he's all offense.
"I've been called an offensive defenseman," Murphy said. "I ran the power play in Kitchener, and we ended up with a pretty successful one. At the same time, I like to play solid defensively."
Murphy said he and Skinner, the No. 7 overall pick last year, were "pretty good buddies" at Kitchener. He also smiled when asked if Skinner winning the Calder as the league's top rookie might add a little pressure to the situation.
"A little," he said. "But he's obviously a one-of-a-kind hockey player. There's not many Jeff Skinners out there."
Rutherford said about a month ago, he asked Skinner about Murphy.
"He gave me the thumbs-up on him," Rutherford said.
On Friday, so did the Hurricanes.
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