Brett Murray celebrates a goal March 20. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Brett Murray developing in Rochester, sees future in Sabres organization

ROCHESTER – Winger Brett Murray grew up here as a player, developing from an unheralded Buffalo Sabres draft pick into one of the Americans’ top scorers and most versatile presences.

Five seasons ago, Murray, 25, arrived having just signed an AHL contract. While he was certainly an intriguing youngster, Buffalo’s previous regime wanted him to raise his conditioning to pro standards, so he did not receive an NHL deal.

Within a year, he earned his entry-level contract and prospect status. Today, he has played 23 games for the Sabres, including two this season, and is the Amerks’ longest-tenured player.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Murray, who left Penn State as a sophomore and returned to junior hockey, has enjoyed his unique career.

“My path to professional hockey has been anything but normal, and I think my path moving forward may continue to be that,” said Murray, who scored in overtime last Saturday in Syracuse to force Friday’s decisive Game 5 against the Crunch in the AHL North Division semifinal. “I’m still young. I’m 25. I’ve been in this organization for five years now, and going up and down every so often throughout the seasons, it’s something to work toward.

“My ultimate goal is to be a permanent NHL player.”

But will Murray earn that opportunity in Buffalo? He made his first NHL appearances this season since a 19-game look in 2021-22. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and given his scoring prowess and big-bodied game, he will have suitors looking to add depth, most likely for an AHL role.

The grass, of course, might not be greener elsewhere. Sure, he can likely find a team interested in recalling him. But he might never experience what he has playing for the tight-knit Amerks.

Murray, a fourth-round pick in 2016, 99th overall, said he “absolutely” sees a future in the organization.

“I love it here,” he said following Wednesday’s practice in Blue Cross Arena. “This is year five, and I wouldn’t have it any different. I love the team, I love the organization, I love the city. Even in Buffalo, I haven’t been there too many times or for too long stints, but it’s close to home (Bolton, Ontario) for me.”

Murray has clearly found something special in Rochester, where he has established himself as a gritty presence willing to pay a price at the net or by fighting.

He won last Saturday’s game, his first outing since April 3, by parking his massive frame in front of the net and converting the rebound. After an upper-body injury sidelined him 10 games, he looked comfortable from the get-go in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“He had a stick-swinging contest with (Waltteri) Merela, one of their best players, just kind of setting a tone for us more than anything, (telling) his teammates that we’re here to do business tonight,” Amerks coach Seth Appert said. “He’s one of our most physical players, our biggest body, he’s one of our highest scorers, he’s our best puck protector. So our O-zone time was dramatically higher than it was in any of the first (few) games.”

His maturation – Appert said he’s “incredibly proud of … the player he’s turned himself into and the leader he’s turned himself into” – caught the eye of the Sabres, who recalled him in December. The Sabres, who recently re-hired Lindy Ruff as coach, could certainly use more bulk and another net-front presence.

Murray scored 23 goals and 49 points in 71 games last season, setting career highs across the board. He registered 17 goals and 32 points in 54 outings this season.

“When we got here … he certainly wasn’t viewed as a leader in our organization,” Appert said. “Through an amazing amount of work and honing in on the things that he could be great at, (he’s become) a power forward with skill instead of being a big body that’s a skill player, and there’s a difference. …

“He does it over and over, and he’s turned himself into a great player. A guy that’s been in the NHL, a guy that’s fighting to be there all the time and he’s turned himself into a critical leader for us in Rochester.”

One thought on “Brett Murray developing in Rochester, sees future in Sabres organization”

  1. The Sabres are looking for the kind of grit and two-way play that he brings. It depends on who else they bring in. He could balance out a more expensive aquisition.

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