HF Prospect of the Month, March, 2015: Murray gets stronger as season progresses

By Chris Roberts
Matt Murray - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - Hockey's Future NHL Prospect of the Month, March, 2015

Photo: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Matt Murray has both the best goals-against average and save percentage in the AHL in the 2014-15 season (courtesy of Mark Spowart/Icon Sportswire)

 

March signaled the end of the regular season in the three major Canadian junior hockey leagues, and, unsurprisingly, the top performers were familiar names who have been recognized by Hockey’s Future over the course of the season. Outside of the CHL, there were notable individual performances at the collegiate level, with just four teams remaining, fighting for the chance to be crowned the nation’s best.

That said, a career month at the pro level often trumps impressive amateur performances.

Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month – March 2015

Matt Murray (PIT)
Currently playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)

Proving his dominating four-game stretch in February (one goal in four games) was no fluke, Pittsburgh Penguins 2012 third round pick Matt Murray was again a big reason for the success of the Penguins AHL  farm team in March. He started nine games in the month, compiling a 7-1-1 record, allowing just 11 goals and recording three shutouts.

His numbers over the past two months have been otherworldly and he is running away with the AHL Goaltender of the Year award – he now owns a 22-9-3 record, to go along with a 1.59 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. In four years of junior hockey, Murray only recorded a .900-plus save percentage once, but the 6’5” netminder seems to have acclimated himself well to the pro game.

Honorable Mention

Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ)
Currently playing with Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

The “Great Dane” Oliver Bjorkstrand has found himself on this list multiple times this season, and with good reason. A third round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Bjorkstrand finished the regular season with 118 points in just 59 games, including a league-leading 63 goals. By comparison, Cole Sanford was the only other player in the WHL to reach 50 goals and it took him 72 games. Bjorkstrand was also named WHL Player of the Week on four occasions this season, including once in March. Over the course of the month, the right winger collected 27 points in 10 regular season contests and two points in three playoff games.

Anthony DeAngelo (TBL)
Currently playing with Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Anthony DeAngelo finished first among all OHL defensemen in scoring with relative ease – the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft compiled 89 points over the course of the season, split between the Sarnia Sting and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. To put into perspective how consistent of a threat the American has been from the back end, when he failed to register a point in a Mar. 31st playoff game, it was the first time he had done so since January 9th, a stretch of 27 games. The Greyhounds loaded up at the OHL trade deadline and entered the playoffs as one of the top offensive teams in all of the CHL, but that barely diminishes DeAngelo’s individual accomplishments, if at all.

Jimmy Vesey (NSH)
Currently playing with Harvard University (ECAC)

A third round pick for the Nashville Predators in the 2012 draft, Jimmy Vesey enjoyed a career year in his third season of NCAA hockey. He led the Crimson in scoring with 58 points in 37 games, capped off by a strong month of March in which he recorded 14 points in eight games. He finished third in the nation in scoring behind Boston University teammates Jack Eichel (2015) and Evan Rodrigues, and his 58 points marked an increase of 36 from the 2013-14 season. There were rumblings that Vesey, should he turn pro this season, would slide right into the Predators lineup, but the 21-year-old will return to Harvard for his senior campaign next season.

Sam Bennett (CGY)
Currently playing with Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

A full season with Sam Bennett and it’s likely the Kingston Frontenacs would have opened the OHL playoffs at home rather than on the road because of a sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference. The Calgary Flames prospect, who missed the majority of the regular season with a shoulder injury, played in just 11 games, but still cracked the team’s top 10 in scoring with 24 points. In the month of March, the 2014 fourth overall selection recorded 20 points in eight regular season games. Bennett also added two assists in three playoff games.

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