With teammate Daniel Catenacci proclaimed the first pick a day earlier, it was Ryan Murphy left to face the first one-on-one showdown of the Ontario Hockey League draft Saturday.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds selected Mr. Catenacci, the highly touted York Simcoe Express minor midget centre and team captain as the No. 1 overall pick Friday.
The Kingston Frontenacs made no secret of their desire to choose Alan Quine of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens with the second pick.
That set up the Kitchener Rangers to decide between Mr. Murphy, an Aurora resident, and Justin Sefton of the Notre Dame Hounds for third overall choice and the first defenceman to be chosen.
Mr. Murphy, an offensive-style defenceman frequently likened to the Windsor Spitfires’ Ryan Ellis, got the nod.
“I knew a couple of weeks in advance they were interested, but it was only a couple of days before that they told me to not talk to other teams, that it looked like they were going to pick me,” Mr. Murphy said Sunday night.
“It feels awesome to be part of the OHL and to have the chance to move on. I can’t wait ‘til next season.”
Mr. Catenacci, Mr. Murphy and Barclay Goodrow represented a first-round hat trick for the Express program, leading a wave of 11 team members taken in the 15-round process.
That total surpassed the nine players chosen from the York Simcoe program in the 2004 draft.
There is no shortage of demand for offensive-minded defencemen, although Mr. Murphy noted the Rangers mentioned a modification to his game would be in order.
“They said I have to play more defence, but not to change my game too much,” said the Grade 10 student at Villanova College in King City.
“I guess I’m similar to Ryan Ellis, but I think we have some differences. He has more grit in his game; I’m more speed and finesse.”
No matter how highly young players are regarded, there always exists a grain of doubt when scouts start poking around.
Mr. Murphy, who along with his Express teammates has been on the OHL radar for more than a year, is no exception.
“There were times I thought I’d be crossed off the list,” he said.
While a foregone conclusion as the first pick, Mr. Catenacci said it was still a significant moment.
“Just to make it official is really special,” said Mr. Catenacci, who was on hand in Toronto for the process after spending a large part of Friday in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Newmarket resident has already been tabbed Boy Wonder in the Soo media.
He’s a little leery about the designation.
“They can say what they want,” said Mr. Catenacci, the first Express player ever taken first overall in the 20-team process.
“I know they’re expecting a lot, but I’m only 16 and part of the rebuilding process. I’ll try my hardest to do my best.”
Mr. Goodrow, also an Aurora resident, was selected 17th overall by the Brampton Battalion.
“I’m very happy with myself and how my teammates did in the draft, too,” said the six-foot-two, 210-pound Mr. Goodrow, who attends Country Day School.
“I was talking to Brampton before the draft, but you never know where you’re going to go or who’s going to take you.
“It’s nice to just know where you’re going and where you’ll be living.”
In the second round, forward Steven Janes was picked 36th overall by the Ottawa 67’s.
Defenceman Jack Kuzmyk of Bradford went to the Owen Sound Attack in the third round at the 49th slot.
Brandon Francisco, touted by many as a first-rounder, may be a steal for the Sarnia Sting with the 55th pick, as teams passed on the Bradford resident, who has been linked to the University of Maine for a scholarship in two years.
“I knew I wouldn’t go high because of the commitment, but Sarnia is one of the places I liked,” said Mr. Francisco, a five-foot-10, 160-pound forward.
“There were some places I didn’t want to go.”
Mr. Francisco, who visited Sarnia Sunday, said it may be a month before he chooses between the Sting and the Black Bears in Maine at least two years down the road.
“Sarnia said (it) had me higher in the draft,” Mr. Francisco said. “They want me to step right in, so I’m excited about next year.”
Also selected from the Express roster were forwards Calvin Higley (Plymouth Whalers) and Jeffrey DiNallo (Guelph Storm), both in the sixth round, and Andrew Shutt (Sault Ste. Marie) in the 11th round.
Netminders Matthew Wintjes (Kingston Frontenacs, 13th) and Hayden Neuman (St. Michael’s, 15th) rounded out the list of Express players chosen.