by Warren Rappleyea
Coming into the season the Ottawa Junior Senators were expecting Wil Murphy to play an integral role at both ends of the ice. The 6-foot-2 defender has done all that and then some as his team currently sits atop the Central Canada Hockey League’s (CCHL) Yzerman Division.
Last spring Murphy really showed his mettle. The Gananoque, Ontario native not only did a solid job, but he played through some nagging injuries as the Junior Sens went on to win the Bogart Cup and advance to the Centennial Cup. He ended his first CCHL campaign with five goals and 19 assists.
After spending the summer months in the gym and working on his skating, Murphy picked up where he left off in training camp—on the ice as well as off. His teammates took note and voted him to be their captain at the conclusion of the pre-season.
He’s clearly thrived on the additional responsibility.
“They couldn’t have picked a better guy,” head coach Kyle Makaric said. “Wil’s always the first one at the rink or the gym and he pushes the other players to do their best. He can speak up, but he also leads by example. Even last year without having a letter, Wil pushed everyone with his competitive spirit.”
Murphy said that he gained a lot of confidence last season as the coaching staff continually employed him in various situations.
“The coaches would keep putting me out there even after a mistake or maybe not taking the best option in making play,” Murphy explained. “They kept working with me and putting me in those situations so I could eventually succeed.”
So far this season Murphy has posted nine points in 10 games (two goals and seven assists), while logging plenty of ice time and spearheading one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Ottawa has yielded a league best of just 23 goals against in its first 10 matches.
“He treats every single day as if it’s the game,” the coach added. “When we get to those higher, important moments in the game where you need someone to execute, Wil is always at that level. He doesn’t have to rise to the occasion, he just defaults to his training because he puts in so much time and effort.”
Defensively, the Junior Sens staff looks for the defender to use his skating and anticipatory skills. “We want to stop plays for the other team before they can get started,” Murphy said. “That will lead to better offensive opportunities for us.”
Offensively, Murphy is given the freedom to play more like a rover and to try and make good things happen. “Instead of waiting for someone to put the puck on my stick, my role is to try and move up the ice more and help create options and opportunities for my teammates,” Murphy said.
He also noted that the Junior Sens title run last season and the organization’s overall tradition of success means that expectations are high in the nation’s capital. That means that as captain Murphy needs to help the many newcomers who have joined the squad this year adapt to life in the CCHL.
“I really respect what the organization has done over the years,” Murphy added. “I don’t want that to end on my watch. I want to keep it going for the next guys. I know we’ve had some turnover, but the guys we’ve added are all good players. I want to help them succeed. Last year was awesome and I know winning a second time would be just as good.”