Justin Murray started his junior career at 16 in his hometown of London with the Nationals of the GOJHL during the 2014-15 season, and he played a critical role in London’s successes during his one-year stint as a dominant defenseman.
“As a 16-year-old, being able to play in my hometown in front of my parents, friends and family was a pretty special experience,” says Murray, who recalls many memories and experiences that have had a lasting impact.
“One of my favourite memories was when we went into the playoffs being the lower seed to Chatham, and Tanner Ferreira scored in OT of Game 6 to move us on to the next round,” Murray says. “To be able to win a playoff round as the underdog was pretty special.”
In Murray’s season with the Nationals, he racked up 37 regular season points in 49 games (fifth-highest on the team), an impressive feat for a defenseman. He earned the Phibbs Inc. Award as the Western Conference Most Outstanding Rookie Defenseman, and he was selected to participate in the GOJHL Top Prospects Game.
Murray then spent three-and-a-half seasons with the OHL’s Barrie Colts – before being traded to Saginaw in December. He was named captain of the Colts at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, and he held that role position until the trade.
“It was definitely tough being traded after being in Barrie for so long,” Murray says. “But I can’t be more grateful and thankful to Saginaw for making me feel welcome as soon as I got there.”
Although this season is Murray’s final in the OHL, he’s not distracted by thinking about what the future may hold.
“I definitely want to keep playing hockey as long as I can,” he says. “I’m just trying to focus on this year right now and having a long playoff run, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Murray says his time with the Nationals had a lasting impact on him and provided him with the foundation to succeed in the OHL. He says coach Kelly Thomson and assistant coach Reggie Thomas, both former OHLers, had a significant influence on him.
“Even the training staff, like Joe Gowers and the other coaches, were really good and helped the team,” Murray says. “I think that’s why we were able to achieve more than what people expected.”
By Haley Tice for the London Nationals