Sudbury Wolves sniper Blake Murray may soon get to test his shot at the AHL level after signing an amateur tryout with the Chicago Wolves, the Carolina Hurricanes’ top minor-league affiliate, this past weekend.
Carolina’s sixth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the 19-year-old Uxbridge, Ont., native could see game action as early as Wednesday, against Sudbury teammate Isaak Phillips and the Rockford IceHogs. Puck drop is at 6 p.m.
While most of their teammates waited at home for the OHL to return to action, Murray and Jack Thompson travelled to Sweden to play on a loan for Surahammars IF in Hockeyettan, the third division of men’s hockey in that Scandinavian nation. They were joined there by Barrie Colts forward and good friend Ethan Cardwell.
Murray made the most of the opportunity and was one of Surahammars’ top point-getters over a 16-game span, with seven goals and 16 assists.
“This will be beneficial for us, because we’re going to be in game shape and coming into camp ready,” Murray told The Star in mid-February. “A lot of people staying home in Ontario, that could be their first time on the ice in like 12 months, so we’re off to a good start here. Whether we come back or we have to finish off the season here, it will be good for us either way.
A stint in the AHL could provide an even bigger boost to Murray’s career. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound centre/wing hopes to earn an entry-level contract with the Hurricanes, who must sign him by the end of May or let him leave the organization as a free agent.
The move certainly paid off for Phillips. Like Murray, he was also part of Sudbury’s 2017 OHL Priority Selection class, but wasn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2020 due to his late birth date. A fifth-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks, Phillips was among many junior-aged skaters to benefit from a one-off exception granting them AHL eligibility while the OHL season remained delayed, impressing enough to earn a three-year ELC of his own.
Prior to his loan to Surahammars, Murray enjoyed his best offensive season in the OHL ion 2019-20, scoring 35 goals and adding 37 assists in 63 games. He may well have hit the 40-goal plateau with five games left on the schedule, after lighting the lamp seven times in five contests before COVID-19 brought a premature end to the campaign.
The OHL has repeatedly voiced its commitment to a return to play for the 2020-21 season this spring.