Sometimes, it’s best to be under the radar.
Playing for the Hill Academy, a private school located just north of Toronto, Patrick Murphy was the younger on a team that featured older players looking to gain attention from college programs on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
As a result, very few scouts attended games with Murphy and the Hill Academy, and exposure was limited in what was Murphy’s draft year.
But one team took notice and it could be a boon for their future. The Otters selected Murphy with their first fifth round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection in May, and Murphy could prove to be a hidden gem from this year’s draft class.
While most players Murphy’s age were playing for top minor midget programs in their quest for the OHL Cup, Murphy plied his trade against players that were older and bigger than him, which he believes could give him an advantage as he prepares for a future in the Ontario Hockey League.
“It was the best hockey I’ve ever played,” Murphy said. “Some of the players I played against were the best at their age level. Since guys were faster and stronger, I had to develop ways to play against them. It helped me to play with older guys rather than being stronger than everyone else in my own age group.”
Murphy’s size (6-feet, 180 pounds) has been an asset throughout his career, which started when he was just two and a half years old.
When Murphy was seven, he was bigger than most of the other children in his age group, so his coach made the decision to move Murphy to defense, where he has stayed ever since.
Along with Murphy’s size, scouting reports are complimentary of his offensive ability, as he makes a good breakout pass and possesses good hands. He models his game after former Guelph Storm and current Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
With Hill Academy last season, Murphy collected 30 points in 37 games as the team’s youngest player.
In May, Murphy made school history as the first player to be drafted out of the Hill Academy prep hockey program. It was an honor for Murphy, who hopes that will lead to a great career.
“I’m (proud) that I was drafted from there,” Murphy said. “It’s a great program that’s underrated.”
Murphy hopes the next stage in his career will be in the Ontario Hockey League. Like most kids growing up in Ontario, Murphy been an avid fan of the OHL.
The Otters had very little contact with Murphy. But as he did his research leading up to the draft, the Otters were among the top teams on his wish list.
“(The Otters) called me the month before the draft,” Murphy said. “It was one phone call, and that was the only contact I had with them. When I started with AAA hockey, I played with (Otters forward) Luke Cairns and I know him really well. (Otters forward) Chris Marchese went to Hill Academy after the season ended. I looked into the organization and I really liked it.”
The newest Otter may have had the best endorsement of Erie from a visiting player, former Windsor Spitfires defenseman and Nashville Predators 2009 first round pick Ryan Ellis.
“Ellis was in town one day,” Murphy said. “I asked him about the fans in Erie and what it was like to play there and he said that the fans are insane and it’s tough to play there as a visitor. I’ve heard Erie has the best fans, which is awesome.”
With a few spots open on the blue line due to the loss of some 1991’s from last year’s unit, Murphy could gain an inside track on an open roster spot as the highest drafted defenseman by the Otters in this year’s draft class.
In preparation for a possible jump to the OHL, Murphy has been working hard in the offseason to prove that he belongs in the league as a 16 year-old.
“I’ve been working out five days a week at McMaster University and I’m on the ice in St. Catharines twice a week,” Murphy said. “I want to show (the Otters) what I can do and let my assets stick out. Hopefully I can press Sherry (Bassin) and Robbie (Ftorek) for a spot on the team.”