Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

OHL: Head hit on Murphy chilling for Rangers and Hockey Canada (video)The hit that knocked Ryan Murphy out of the Niagara IceDogs-Kitchener Rangers game on Friday could have a serious effect not only on the player, but for Team Canada.

Murphy, the Carolina Hurricanes first-round pick who's the consensus best offensive defenceman in junior hockey, was drilled by Niagara IceDogs wing Tom Kühnhackl behind the net last night. Kühnhackl, a signed Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, reportedly "came charging in at full speed" to deliver the hit and has been suspended for Saturday's return game of the teams' home-and-home series, pending a league review.

Murphy will be evaluated Saturday. From 570 News in Kitchener:

Rangers coach-GM Steve Spott says he's not sure where they go from here and he's disgusted.

"I can tell you we have a world class player, maybe the best offensive defenceman in the country, and he could be out for an extended period of time and for what?" Spott says.

Spott adds that this could affect Murphy's chances at Christmas, referring to the World Junior tournament. (570 News)

Meantime, one should at least be open to the possibility this could have ramifications for Murphy and Team Canada, whose final selection camp begins in six weeks. He's the best offensive D-man out there, bar none.In a strange coincidence, the play occurred at the exact spot where Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli suffered a fractured skull just more than two years ago when he was levelled by then-Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas. Another eerie coincidence is that Kühnhackl, who was playing just his second game for Niagara, injured his knee at the same rink in October when he was playing for the Windsor Spitfirs.

Make no mistake, it was a scary situation. From Josh Brown:

Kühnhackl ... left his feet and levelled Murphy into the boards by the Zamboni entrance at the Aud.

The blueliner collapsed hard to the ice and wasn't moving as team trainer Dan Lebold rushed to help. Murphy was able to skate off on his own but did not play the third period and is out with an upper body injury.

"If our players don't start having a higher respect level for each other … I don't know where this goes," said Kitchener Rangers head coach and general manager Steve Spott, who is already missing concussed captain Michael Catenacci.

"It's just extremely frustrating that these injuries continue to occur. These players are not getting the message." (Waterloo Record)

It's rash to try to judge whether this is a suspendable offence and how many games Kühnhackl ought to miss. TV Cogeco Niagara showed another angle of the play that seemed to show that Kühnhackl did not jump and kept his hands down. He hasn't been suspended in his season-plus in the league, but the OHL has shown a willingness to sit players for 10 games if there was intent or clear evidence the offending player was reckless in controlling his body or stick. Ten games will probably be automatic.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images; video: Rogers Television, via Jérôme Bérubé).

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