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The Cannon Top 25 Under 25 - #4 Ryan Murray

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Murray got a bridge deal, stayed healthy, and looked better once Seth Jones arrived. It is now time for him to take another step forward.

New York Rangers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Injuries.

Until last season, if you had asked any fan to describe Ryan Murray, that’s what they would have reached for. Last season, however, was a breakout year for the former second overall draft pick. Murray played all 82 games, registered 4-21-25, and played himself into a $5.65 million dollar extension.

Ryan Murray was never going to be an elite offensive threat from the blue line. That’s not his game, and not what he was drafted to play. He is expected to become the shutdown defenseman that can eat minutes, match up against the best players opposing teams have to offer, and negate them. Staying healthy allowed him to show his talent. And, when he takes this ice this fall, he will only be 23 years old. He’s not even close to his prime as a defenseman.

Compare his numbers, as The Hockey Writers did, to this underwhelming defenseman through 160 games played: Murray registered 9-49-58. Defenseman #2 registered 8-47-55. The other guy? Victor Hedman, recently seen leading Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Finals.

This is a huge year for Murray- there’s no other way to put it. He’s healthy, he’ll be in game shape heading into the season (after playing the World Cup for Team North America- who I’m cheering for to win the whole thing, by the way), and he’s playing (hopefully) with the best partner he’s ever had (either Seth Jones or Zach Werenski).

Outlook for 2016-17

Obviously, there’s no time in the AHL for Murray in the future. He’s starting the season as one of the two best defensemen this team has. So long as he stays healthy and Torts doesn’t inexplicably pair him with Dalton Prout for ¾ of the season for reasons unknown, expect the former second overall pick to have a huge season development wise. He will play on special teams, play lots of minutes at even strength, and get time to develop. It’s on him to become the shutdown guy every Jackets fan hopes he can be.