To hear Steve Spott tell it, he and Ryan Murphy will cease to be Kitchener Rangers when they arrive in Calgary next week for Canada's national junior team selection camp.
Murphy, the only player at the camp who plays for Spott in Kitchener, is hoping the third time will be the charm in his bid to make Team Canada. The puck-moving defenceman, a smooth puck-handler who also logs huge minutes for a team which defensively sound overall, was barely removed from a concussion when he was cut from the 2012 squad. He was also cut in 2011 as a 17-year-old, although that was hardly expected. Next week is his last stab to become one of the nation's 22 adopted sons come Christmas time.
"When you get into these situations and evaluations as we're going to come into on Monday, it's no longer about your club teams — it's about your country," Spott said on Monday after the camp roster was named. "And Ryan knows that. I met with him face-to-face regarding that. My expectation is he'll push for a job here because I believe in him."
Murphy has 21 points in 28 games for Kitchener, which has been chronically unable to light up the scoreboard but is fourth in the OHL's Western Conference. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect will have to show he can free-wheel while working within the system.
"Ultimately it's going to be about playing risk-free using his skills to his advantage," Spott said. "One thing I told him yesterday was play his game. If there's one thing he might regret from last year. This year, he'll come in, he'll push the envelope, but ultimately he'll recognize that he has to eliminate risk from his game. I fully expect that he'll do that."
Rielly's role 'will be clearly defined'
Hockey Canada typically prefers two-way defencemen over the high-risk, high-reward type. The world junior is too tough to carry anyone who could be a potential defensive liability against top teams such as Sweden, Russia, the U.S. or Finland. The big piece of understanding is that as much as it's fun to see a puck-moving defenceman run the whole ice in major junior, the WJC is a different ballgame.
That just does not go for Murphy, whom Canada took overseas for a challenge series with Russia in August. (He had a cough-up for a goal but otherwise acquitted himself decently.) It even goes for Toronto Maple Leafs top pick Morgan Rielly, who could be Canada's No. 1 defenceman in the absence of Ryan Murray.
"I can tell you that he is a complete player," Spott said or Rielly. "Sometimes when these players who have Morgan's ability are playing junior hockey, they're able to press the envelope sometimes. I can assure you then when we meet with Morgan on Monday, that his role will be clearly defined. I completely expect that he'll play a complete game, a safe game and a risk-free game."
If that goes for Rielly, then it goes for Murphy. How the two fun-to-watch blueliners fit in will be a camp storyline.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.