Friday was expected to be a banner day for Western Hockey League defencemen at the National Hockey League draft.
It went as well as could be expected for a pair of former Moose Jaw AAA Warriors. Ryan Murray and Derrick Pouliot both chosen in the top-10 if the NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
Murray was taken second overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the host Pittsburgh Penguins netted Pouliot with the eighth pick after trading Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for the pick, along with center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
Before the draft there was speculation that Murray could be the first name called by the Edmonton. Once the Oilers selected Nail Yakupov, Murray didn’t have to wait long for Columbus to chose him.
“I was pretty nervous before the draft. It seemed like I was in the building for about an hour but it felt like a day,” Murray told the Canadian Press.
The 18-year-old White City product scored nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points and had 31 penalty minutes in 46 games while captaining the Everett Silvertips. He represented Canada at the world juniors and the world championships this past season and is one of the most NHL-ready players in this year’s draft class.
While Murray was expected to be one of the first picks, Pouliot was ranked 12th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting and wasn’t a consensus top-10 pick.
“Right now, it’s just kind of a little bit surreal,” Pouliot said at his post-selection press conference. “Just real excited about it and extremely happy.”
The Weyburn native is a great offensive defenceman and he showed those qualities with a strong season with the Portland Winterhawks. Pouliot had 11 goals and 59 points in 72 games before adding 17 points in 22 playoff games on the Winterhawks run to the WHL final.
Both Murray and Pouliot played one season of midget AAA hockey in Moose Jaw before making the jump to the WHL.