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Wild vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Dalpe, Murphy Among Traverse City Standouts

Tuesday, 09.14.2010 / 11:44 AM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Dalpe, Murphy Among Traverse City Standouts
The last time Mike Murphy posted a shutout, things didn’t go so well the next day. 

Paul Branecky
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On Valentine’s Day of this past season, the 21-year-old Albany River Rats goaltender was feeling supremely confident following his 27-save blanking of the Binghamton Senators one night earlier. That was when a Jay Harrison slap shot during practice broke his hand, causing him to miss the rest of the reason.

”It was really bad timing, but I feel great now,” he said, acknowledging a little soreness after 18 holes of golf but nothing that would hinder his on-ice performance. “The doctors tell me I’ll probably have arthritis when I’m 40, but it doesn’t bother me at all when I’m playing.”

That was evident in his latest effort– a 33-save shutout of the New York Rangers’ entry at the Traverse City prospects tournament. Through two games, the Hurricanes’ 2008 fifth-round draft choice is tied for the tournament lead with a 1.00 goals-against average and ranks second with a .964 save percentage. According to General Manager Jim Rutherford, he was the main reason that the Canes were able to eke out the win over the Rangers with Zac Dalpe’s goal in the final minute.

Of course, that’s nothing new in this competition.

“He won the whole tournament for us last year,” said Rutherford, citing Murphy’s 3-0-0 record with one shutout in 2009. “He’s coming along very nicely in his development.”

Murphy, who will lead the Canes into their final round-robin game against Columbus at 6:30 p.m. today, will share goaltending duties with Justin Pogge in Charlotte of the AHL next season.  That's more or less the norm for goaltenders of his age, particularly with an established starter like Cam Ward already in the system. Rutherford sees Murphy following the Justin Peters mold of steady year-to-year progression leading to a dominant minor-league season that would eventually force his hand.

”Any goalie that goes through a year like that is going to have a spot somewhere,” said Rutherford of Peters' 2009-10 All-Star season with Albany. “That’s really the biggest step that a goalie needs to take.”

While that door won’t open immediately for Murphy, Traverse City participants Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner all have excellent chances of starting with the Hurricanes this season. Of the 20 players on the team’s roster, those three have stood out as expected.

”Those three guys have distinguished themselves from the rest of the camp,” said Rutherford.

It’s true that none have lit up the score sheet to this point – the Hurricanes have just two goals in two games, one by Dalpe and one by AHL forward Mike McKenzie. Rutherford sees that as a product of line combinations and strategy – the three have not played on the same unit – rather than a knock on any of their individual performances.

”The lines have been balanced a bit, which has taken away some of our ability to generate offense but gives us a better look at the whole roster,” he said. “We’ll get a better look at the top guys when they’re playing with veteran players at the big camp.”

Rutherford said that Skinner, the team’s first-round pick this past June, had an excellent first game and would have scored on at least one of his seven shots were it not for the outstanding play of Minnesota goaltender and former Plymouth Whaler Matt Hackett. However, his opportunities were limited against the Rangers.

“In the second game he got frustrated because teams are keying in on him and giving him a rough ride because they know who he is,” said Rutherford. “That’s something he’s going to have to learn to play through as he develops.”

Nonetheless, the Hurricanes have been pleased with his performance, as they have of Nash, who has displayed the trademark vision that made him a target of Associate Head Coach and Director of Player Development Ron Francis in the first place.

However, Dalpe has risen to the top.

“He’s been our best player,” said Rutherford of the 2008 second-round pick. “He’s had the best chance to prepare by playing some games with Albany at the end of last season and in the playoffs, but his size, skating ability and shot really stand out.”

If Dalpe can continue that in the team’s main training camp beginning this weekend, he may have the early edge in the race to start the season in the NHL. That could be at his more natural center-ice spot – an area of greatest need for the Hurricanes – or at the wing, which echoes Skinner’s positional eligibility. 

While there could be a scenario where two or possibly even three of that group crack the roster, at this point, either one would appear to be a good choice.




1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43


J. Faulk 62 12 28 -18 40
E. Staal 57 18 20 -12 38
E. Lindholm 61 11 16 -18 27
J. Skinner 57 16 10 -17 26
N. Gerbe 58 7 16 -10 23
R. Nash 59 7 15 -10 22
V. Rask 60 8 12 -16 20
J. McClement 62 6 13 3 19
J. Staal 26 4 12 -4 16
A. Nestrasil 34 4 11 4 15
C. Ward 17 20 4 .911 2.43
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .905 2.61