HELSINKI - Ryan Murray already knows he'll enter the NHL draft in June as the second-ranked prospect. But he has an opportunity to make a late push for the No. 1 spot on a stage no one else in the draft class will step on.
The 18-year-old defenceman was added to Canada's roster at the IIHF World Hockey Championship Friday, just hours before becoming the country's second-youngest player ever to appear in the event during a 3-2 victory over Slovakia.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Canada's entry at the tournament is being assembled by Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe, whose team holds the top draft selection. He expects the Edmonton scouts to keep close tabs on Murray here.
"You can't pick a better place to watch a kid, right?" said Lowe. "This is a man's tournament."
Murray had originally come to Europe as an extra body for training camp and a pair of exhibition games against Switzerland, but found himself in the right place at the right time.
With P.K. Subban getting sent home after suffering a knee injury and Marc Methot nursing a groin issue, Canada had just five healthy blue-liners for its first tournament game. That prompted Lowe to officially add Murray to his roster and coach Brent Sutter ended up giving him more than 17 minutes of ice time while playing alongside Duncan Keith.
"That's pretty impressive for a guy his age," said Keith, a former Norris Trophy winner. "To be able to step in here and play against guys who've played in the NHL and played a lot of hockey, it's pretty impressive. I'm happy to play with him back there.
"He moves the puck great and it's easy playing with him."
Sutter was also impressed with what he saw.
"He's just fit right into the group," he said. "It's like he's been a pro."
It's extremely unusual for a player in his situation to get into this tournament. Paul Kariya was about a month younger — and also undrafted — when he wore the Maple Leaf in 1993. Since then, Jonathan Toews (2007) and Jordan Eberle (2010) each suited up at the event prior to making their NHL debut, but both had been drafted beforehand.
Murray looked poised and confident despite admitting that he was "very nervous" about the situation.
"I really wasn't expecting this," he said. "They just told me I was going to play a couple hours before the game. I'm glad to get the opportunity I guess, but it's too bad a couple guys had to go down for that opportunity to come up."
Lowe watched Murray play a game for the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips earlier this season and said the native of White City, Sask., turned in a "flawless" performance. That helped put him on Hockey Canada's radar.
It's been quite a year for Murray, who represented Canada at the world under-18 championship in 2011 and participated in the world junior tournament earlier this year. In April, NHL Central Scouting listed him second behind Nail Yakupov among North American-based players.
But Murray would love to go No. 1 and join an Oilers team that should be on the rise in the coming years.
"I think anybody would love to go to Edmonton," said Murray. "They've got a young team and a lot of great skill on that team. I think any player in this draft would definitely like to go there."