Brett Murray only has two games of NHL experience under his belt, but at 23 years old, he’s considered one of the more experienced veterans at this weekend’s Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenge.
Murray was a steady presence in Friday evening’s game against the New Jersey Devils, showcasing his offensive prowess and providing leadership for his young teammates.
On the ice, it’s easy to spot Murray; at 6’5” and 228 pounds, he is quite literally a presence you can’t miss. He's a big body even in an NHL lineup, much less among players who are as much as six inches shorter than he is. He was also named an alternate captain for Friday’s squad.
Whether he likes it or not, he stands out.
Off-ice, the soft-spoken Murray said after Friday night’s game that he “wanted to be the best player out there.” It’s only one game - and a prospects game, at that - but with a goal and an assist, but it’s safe to say that he lived up to his own expectations in Friday night’s 3-0 win.
His goal came on the rebound after a point shot from Oskari Laaksonen.
“I had to work hard for that goal, and I was lucky enough for it to bounce in,” he said. “I thought I could’ve had a few more in front of the net, too.”
Later in the game, Murray aligned himself with J-J Peterka on Buffalo’s second goal after working hard to create a 3-on-1 opportunity for his team.
“J-J made a great play,” he said. “Good system work... I was lucky enough to take it right off the skate and transition and he made an unbelievable finish there. It worked out well.”
Not only did Murray meet his own expectations; he met those of coach Seth Appert, too.
“I was really happy with his performance,” Appert said. “Right from the start, first shift, had a real hard finish check. I thought he stuck up for his teammates; I loved how we stuck up for each other tonight on some dirty hits. I love to see Murray go after guys, love to see [Arttu] Ruotsalainen go in there and stick up for teammates.”
“That’s what you want to have,” he added. “You pull that jersey over your shoulders, you’ve got pride in playing for this organization, in playing for this city. I thought our guys did that, particularly with Murray.”
“It was a real statement that he made tonight, that this kid’s gonna keep coming,” Appert added.
Between his two years at Penn State, a year and a half with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms and two seasons with the AHL’s Rochester Americans, Murray has experienced a little bit of everything along the way to the NHL as he develops into an impressive prospect.
After appearing in two games last season with the Sabres, it’s clear that he wants more. If he continues to show up both on and off the ice like he has, he might just get it.