Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Josh Morrissey’s 2013 NHL Draft season started a little earlier than most.
It got underway well before the 2012 NHL Draft as a member of Team Canada’s bronze medal entry at the World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic last April where Morrissey was one of eight players eligible for this year’s draft.
He followed that up by again donning the Maple Leaf at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, helping Canada to its fifth consecutive gold medal finish.
The two tournaments helped set the tone for Morrissey’s season with the Raiders.
“Playing at the Ivan Hlinka and the Under-18 World Championship, it gives you a lot of confidence coming in and a lot of experience,” he said. “Fortunately enough for me I’ve been able to come in and get off to a hot start and have the puck going my way.”
Success has found the stick of Morrissey, who has seven assists and nine points in just eight games in Prince Albert after notching 38 in 68 contests a year ago. Still, the six-foot, 184-pound blueliner doesn’t feel any different this season and is taking the stresses in stride.
“I’m excited, obviously, I can’t lie about that,” Morrissey said. “I’m excited about this year but at the same time I’m just focusing on playing every day. I’m a guy who loves to play the game and loves coming to the rink every day. That hasn’t changed this year.”
Scouts are certainly enjoying going to the rink when Morrissey is performing, too.
Ranked 15th in September’s slotting of 2013 NHL Draft eligibles, Morrissey is making fans out of many scouts. That includes Future Considerations’ Western Hockey League scout Cody Nickolet.
” There’s lots to like,” Nickolet said. “He’s a well rounded defenceman who skates well, moves the puck well, has a solid shot, can quarterback a powerplay and is improving defensively. He also isn’t afraid to play mean and get chippy from time to time during a game.”
Zenon Herasymiuk, another Future Considerations scout, came away impressed from his viewings of Morrissey.
“He’s the kind of guy that gets overlooked early in the year, but then everyone looks at his stat line and he’s got 60 points,” Herasymiuk said. “(He) just reminds me of Morgan Rielly, the type of defenseman that is becoming more valuable in the new NHL, a smart puck mover that can skate like the wind. He’s going to be something special.”
And just like he got a jumpstart on his draft season, Morrissey has been quick to establish a legion of fans in the scouting community.
Do you feel last year, your rookie season in the WHL, has helped prepare you for your draft year?
“After a tough season last year I was able to learn a lot of lessons, some lessons you might not want to learn in your career but at the same time able to learn the lessons nonetheless.”
You’re wearing an ‘A’ on your jersey this year. Is there any added pressure?
“I like that responsibility. I think some guys might get a little bit uptight about that, hold the stick a little tighter. I’ve always wanted to be a leader on this team. Fortunately for me I have a great group of guys around me with letters as well. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Is there one piece of advise you’re keeping in mind for your draft season?
“I talked to Mark (McNeill) a bit and one of the key things he said was not to get too far ahead of yourself and make sure as each day goes by you’re enjoying yourself. A lot of the times guys get caught up in the draft and all the hype, but at the end of the day all you can do is play and enjoy the game.”
What do you feel is the strongest part of your game?
“I like to think of myself as a two-way player. Obviously I like to jump into the play and create offense but at the same time I want to be counted on as reliable defensively. Last year I was able to learn a lot defensively. A two-way player with offensive upside.”
Where do you see needing improvement in your game?
“Like all players, I’d like to improve in all areas of my game. Sidney Crosby says that every day. One of the concerns is my strength and my size and I’m working every day to try to get stronger and improve in that facet of my game.”
“When you’re battling in the corner, I’m six-foot, 185 pound guy compared to a six-foot-four, 215-pound forward, you’ve got to be strong.”
Is there a particular player you model your game after?
“There are a lot of great offensive and two-way defensemen in the league now. It’s hard to mould the perfect player but I try to take from all of them.”
With files from Zenon Herasymiuk