It's tough to be a goalie at a NHL summer prospect camp. The skaters get to have all the fun, skating around, going through drills and scrimmages and the goalie is not much more visible than the real-life shooter tutor in net for most the practices.
It's probably even tougher to be Pittsburgh Penguins young goalie Matt Murray- who's now in the shadow of fellow prospect Tristan Jarry, receiving deserved frequent praise for winning the Memorial Cup this year. Jarry was also drafted into the NHL a round higher than Murray, albeit a year later.
That year could be crucial- as Jarry will return back to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL again this season, while the 20-year old Murray is now old enough to start his professional career in the minor leagues. Unlike a lot of the prospects in town this week that will soon scatter to the corners of North American in various leagues, Murray will be turning professional this fall.
Murray got to join the Baby Pens at the tail end of last season and appeared in one game (stopping 23 of 25 shots in a loss), which he admitted Friday after practice was an important first glimpse of the professional game.
"That was really big for me," Murray said. "just to see the speed of the game, it is definitely a big jump from junior. For me to get to experience that early and get that little extra experience, it should help a lot."
When asked about specifics on his game and what would be a focus to improve on, Murray twice mentioned the mental part of the game.
"A lot of it is just the mental part of the game. Every goalie is capable physically, what is going to set you a part is your mental toughness and desire to be great. Right now I'm just trying to improve my mental game, that's the big focus."
Since the Penguins have Marc-Andre Fleury entrenched as starter, and a competition for the backup NHL job between recently signed Thomas Greiss and Jeff Zatkoff, Murray knows that nothing will be handed his way. "I think I'll be going to Wilkes-Barre this season, I'd like to make an impression early and basically fight for the starting position."
Like many goaltending prospects (including last year's prized free agent signing Eric Hartzell), a stint in the ECHL is probably not out of the cards, though with all the goalies who end up in the NHL that spend time in the ECHL, that shouldn't be a big deal, should it come to that.
Overall, the young goalie sounds polished and eager to begin his career, finishing his media scrum with a quote that jumps of the page of excitement. "I'm ready to make the jump to pro this year, I've been trying to act like a pro since I was 14 years old playing minor hockey, so I'm definitely ready."