By Matt Day, Special to The News
Connor Murphy knew something was up when representatives from NHL Central Scouting came to town.
They took all of his measurements inside the Haldimand County Caledonia Centre before the Corvairs took the ice back in October.
Three months later, the five-foot 10-inch Ancaster, native found out why. The 17-year-old centre was named the 174th best-ranked North American skater in junior hockey and the only one from the Greater Ontario Junior B Hockey League to crack the top-200 National Hockey League draft prospect list.
“Obviously, it’s very exciting. Coming into this year, I had acquired confidence in myself and it’s actually a true testament to the team,” Murphy said. “We’re having a great year, which has helped all of us individually.”
Through 37 games, Murphy led his team in points with 25 goals and 54 assists.
Caledonia’s head coach Mike Bullard called Murphy an incredible talent.
“He’s doing this at 17. It’s an amazing statement on behalf of himself and on behalf of the league,” he said following the weekend’s wins.
Bullard said he feels lucky Murphy remains on the Corvairs as the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack has been trying to woo Murphy for the past two years.
Murphy was Owen Sound’s seventh-round draft pick two years ago and general manager Dale DeGray said he saw many upsides to the speedy forward.
“He’s a very smart player. He has a high hockey IQ, high skill, very good skater. There’s not a whole lot not to like,” said DeGray, adding his only concern was his small size at 16-years-old.
“We wanted to sign him right out of camp, but it wasn’t quite what he wanted.”
Murphy said as important as his hockey career is to him, his education is equally important. Murphy has a 97 per cent average at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School and has early plans to study in a medical-related field.
That’s why he said choosing the right school was vital in the decision-making process.
Unfortunately for the Attack, Murphy won’t be suiting up in the OHL anytime soon. He has already committed to the University of Michigan on a hockey scholarship, a decision he said was a tough one to make.
NCAA rules dictate that, if he plays one second of OHL hockey, he’s ineligible for collegiate competition south of the border. The OHL is seen as a breeding ground for launching talent into the NHL. Stars like John Tavares, Bobby Ryan, Wayne Gretzky and Doug Gilmour all came from the OHL.
“I know more players are drafted out of the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the OHL) than the NCAA, but there are more and more guys coming out of there as well. It still gives me the opportunity to play professional-level hockey but get a good education, too,” said Murphy.
Murphy has a legitimate shot at being drafted into the NHL this year if he continues his impressive play and helps propel the Corvairs to a Sutherland Cup appearance. If he ends up being drafted, it will be the first time since 2008 a player from the GOJHL was selected in the NHL entry draft.