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Wait is over for Grizzlies forward

Saanich's Wade Murphy commits to NCAA amid offensive explosion with Victoria Grizzlies
Wade Murphy is the latest Victoria Grizzlies player to sign an NCAA scholarship

The thing scouts will tell you about Wade Murphy is he’s still growing.

Not just his physical size, but his game as well.

With that in mind, the Victoria Grizzlies forward is content to play this season and next in the B.C. Hockey League before joining Merrimack College in Massachusetts for 2013.

“I’m OK with it. There’s things in my game that need work, (such as) my defensive zone and physical play,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s commitment to Merrimack came just last week, with a “full-ride” scholarship on the table. He turned away offers from other schools, including Penn State.

Thing is, the  upside is starting to look way up for the late-bloomer out of the Spectrum Hockey Academy and junior B Saanich Braves.

Murphy's ascension through the ranks follows that of many who're earmarked for great things. Murphy played bantam AAA with the Racquet Club Kings before joining the major midget South Island Thunderbirds as a 15-year-old.

“I remember first seeing Murphy (in bantam). He was small, but you could already see he was a smart player and a great passer,” said Grizzlies assistant coach and general manager Vic Gervais.

“He plays smart in all three zones and is doing a good job on the wall.”

As of Thursday, Murphy is leading the Grizzlies’ resurrection (6-6) after the team went winless in the first five games of the season. He’s on pace for 129 points with 11 goals and 28 points in his first 13 games. That's almost double the 28 points Murphy scored in 56 games last year.

Add to that Murphy is now 6-foot, 180 lbs., and just turned 18 on Oct. 22, the same day his team won 7-5 over the Chilliwack Chiefs, in which Murphy recorded three assists for the second-straight game.

“It’s Tyler Bozak-type numbers, three and four points a game,” Gervais said, referring to the 128 points scored by the current Toronto Maple Leafs centre when he was with the Grizzlies in 2006-07.

Gervais was at the helm as general manager in 2009-10 when Murphy regularly practised with the Grizzlies in the afternoon before crossing town to suit up for the Saanich Braves at night.

Since that time the Grizzlies have moved a lot of players in and out but Murphy was never on the block, Gervais said.

“Here’s a prime example of why you don’t trade a guy like that. We always knew (Murphy) had it in him (to score points),” Gervais said. “We were starting to wonder whether he was going to produce and now he’s dominating the league on a line with (Wes) Myron and (Jarryd) Ten Vaanholt. They’re big and they’re tough to handle.”

Murphy joins Grizzlies blueliner Nolan de Jong as the most recent players from Spectrum’s academy to sign NCAA deals. In September, the 16-year-old de Jong committed to Cornell University for 2014. Fellow Grizzlies player Braxton Bilous is also committed to Merrimack for 2013.

Murphy and linemate Wes Myron have played together since their days as minor hockey players and most recently in major midget with the 2008-09 Thunderbirds.

It’s only a matter of time before Myron is the next Grizzly to sign an NCAA deal, added the coach. “Myron’s flying around this week to St. Cloud, Boston and North Hampshire universities.”

Next in line

Saanich Braves rookie Shawn McBride is only 16 years old but has 10 points in his first 12 games and is one to watch, Gervais said.