Jake Murray is like most 15-year-old OHL Priority Selection prospects.
Having grown up a stone’s throw west of London in the small town of Komoka, Murray’s love affair with hockey has been accompanied by an enjoyment of time spent with friends and family and a good round of golf now and then.
What sets him apart from the crowd aside from his acute on-ice playmaking ability and offensive creativity is his recent battle with cancer, something he says you can never really prepare for.
“It surprised me, scared me a little,” said the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs winger. “I hadn’t felt great throughout the course of the season, always feeling congested and I had frequent headaches. What my parents and I thought was a sinus infection turned out to be nasal cancer.”
Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the sinuses, forming a tumor along with a whole host of negative side effects.
After leading the ALLIANCE in scoring with 23 goals, 28 assists and 51 points in 32 games, the shifty 5’9″, 145Ib. forward’s road to recovery would have to come at the most inconvenient time of his young hockey career.
The Chiefs played to a third place finish of 21-9-3 during the regular season, but Murray would be out of commission for the playoffs as they fell 3-1 in a first round series to the Windsor Jr. Spitfires.
“What sucked the most was missing most of the playoffs,” said Murray, who recently wrapped up his eighth season of Triple-A hockey. “We’d worked so hard to get to there and not being a part of it was hard. I just remember sitting in the stands thinking I’d do anything to be out there.”
“It’s definitely given me a new appreciation for health and being able to play the game I love.”
Murray did manage to suit up for one playoff contest, scoring twice with one of his goals coming on a penalty shot in Elgin-Middlesex’s 7-4 Game 3 loss.
Fortunately for him, doctors provided the good news that his particular form of cancer was extremely curable. He recently wrapped up his final round of radiation treatment.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’m feeling good now,” he said. “I’ve looked forward to the OHL Draft for a long time and I just want to soak it all in and enjoy it, because you only get to experience it once.”
Murray’s camp has spoken with a number of OHL clubs in the lead up to Saturday’s OHL Priority Selection. With the hope that he’ll be selected, he knows the summer ahead is a very important one.
“I’ve been out of action for awhile, so I’m going to have to push myself to get back into game shape and be physically prepared. I’m going to have to give my lungs a good workout.”
Described by OHL Central Scouting as an undersized but skilled centre that boasts good speed and is hard for opposing defencemen to handle due to his skating and elusiveness, Murray had a strong finish to his season, helping the Chiefs win their last five regular season contests with a trio of three-point performances.
“I like to model my game after smaller offensive-minded guys like Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau,” he noted. “I’m a two-way centre that loves to play offensively, have the puck on my stick, and make my teammates better. I take a lot of pride in my compete-level and I want to be the hardest worker on the ice.”
With his game on the ice getting back up to speed, Murray credits his family, friends and teammates for helping him through his recent setbacks.
“You realize how many people care for you and are affected when something like this happens,” he said. “So many people in my life have been supportive and helped me to stay positive through the situation. I’m just happy that things are getting back to normal and that I can play hockey again.”
Murray hopes to hear his name called on Saturday when the 2016 OHL Priority Selection gets underway at 9:00am. Fans can follow the action right here at ontariohockeyleague.com. The OHL Priority Selection Draft Show will air for the ninth year in a row, featuring coverage of every pick through the opening three rounds of the day.