Brett Murray will enroll at Penn State for the spring semester and join the team for the second half of the season. He was expected to be a part of the group of recruits coming to the team for the 2017-18 season. Wearing uniform number 18, Murray will be available for Penn State’s next game on January 6 versus No. 8 Ohio State.
Murray, a hulking 6’5”, 222 pound power forward, was drafted by Terry Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres in the 4th round with the 99th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. His size is evident but his skills are even more impressive.
Much like Nikita Pavlychev, the huge 6’7” center that was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015, Murray has a hockey I.Q. and stick-handling that is mature beyond his age. At just 18 years and 5 months old, Murray will be the youngest player on the Penn State team. He is also the youngest player at the time of joining the team, beating out fellow freshman Brandon Biro by a matter of weeks.
Prior to this season, Penn State never had a freshman join the team before their 19th birthday. This team has three players that will be 18 at the end of the season. With Biro and Murray, freshman sensation Denis Smirnov forms the trio. The influx of youth is an indicator of the increasing level of talent that each incoming recruit has over the past players.
Part of the reason players join an NCAA hockey team at the age of 20, which is roughly the average age for freshmen, is to allow the player to grow, put on muscle, and gain skill. It is similar to red-shirting but instead the players use the time to play in leagues such as the USHL. Murray has already played 27 games with Youngstown of the USHL, scoring 7 goals to go along with 13 assists in the fall of 2016.
While Murray and Pavlychev are able to score goals, their highest-end skills revolve around setting up others and keeping pucks moving in the offensive zone. Smirnov has similar talents but has been scoring goals this year (10) to go along with 17 assists.
This is completely speculation but one reason that Murray may have decided to come to the team this year is due to his draft status. Murray will likely not be in Happy Valley for more than a couple of seasons. It’s unlikely that he or coach Guy Gadowsky knows anything of Murray’s future plans past this season, so take that as it is, speculation. But also, enjoy this top-end talent while we can and remember that when players do leave early, as Casey Bailey and Eamon McAdam have in the past, they can be replaced with other highly skilled players.
We will see whether Murray is able to blend in quickly with the team. If he does he will add another scoring menace on the ice for opposing teams, to go along with Denis Smirnov and Andrew Sturtz. The scoring prowess of the team was as great as any other in the country without Murray. This can only make it that much better.
Welcome aboard Brett!