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Prince Albert Raiders’ defenceman Josh Morrissey has plenty of positive qualities about his game that have helped him become one of the top blue line prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft.
There’s the obvious standouts such as his skating ability and agility, his puck-handling skill and his compete level. But, what separates Morrissey from others is what’s between his ears. As intelligent, articulate and engaging as a 17-year-old can be, Morrissey is what you’d call a cerebral player. His ability to think the game, see things on the ice that others don’t see, and dictate the pace of play, coupled with his physical talents, are what make Morrissey a strong candidate to go in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
“I think what makes me stand out as a player is my hockey sense,” said the Calgary, AB, product, who is in his second WHL season with the Raiders. “I’ve always tried to be an all-around player and improve on all elements of my game, but at the end of the day I think what has helped me the most is my ‘Hockey IQ’, if that’s what you’d call it.”
Many who have seen him play compare Morrissey’s game with that of fellow East Division star Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Morrissey, though, says he likes to take certain elements from a lot of different defencemen’s games and implement them in his own game.
“Growing up in Calgary, I watched a lot of Dion Phaneuf when he was there,” said Morrissey. “But, there are so many great defencemen in the NHL now that it’s hard to say I model my game after anyone in particular.
“Obviously, a guy like Niklas Lidstrom is a big influence, but If I can take little things from guys like Drew Doughty or Erik Karlsson or Lidstrom and put them into my game, then that’s what I will do because they are all tremendous players,” he said.
For a defenceman who does much of his best work in the offensive zone and in the transition game, Morrissey’s intelligence has made him that much more effective for the Raiders. After putting up 10 goals and 38 points as a rookie last year, Morrissey has taken on a bigger role in the Raiders’ defence corps this season and has been an integral part in the team’s revival.
Ranked 6th among WHL skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s fall preliminary rankings, Morrissey has a lot of eyes on him this season. He’ll get the chance to showcase his considerable hockey sense and skating ability as one of 40 players chosen to participate in the 2013 Home Hardware CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game next week in Halifax, NS.
“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity to take part in that event,” said Morrissey, who is one of 14 WHL players, including close friend Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers, chosen to participate in the event. “Having watched those games growing up, I’m pretty honored to get that recognition and be given the opportunity to play.
“Being able to compete against the best draft-eligible players from the CHL is an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. “Getting to see a lot of old friends and guys I played on the Under-18 team with will be fun, and being able to play for and meet a guy like Don Cherry.”
Of course, being a team-focused player, Morrissey’s thoughts never stray far from his Raiders. Having endured a difficult campaign last year, finishing dead last in the Western Hockey League standings, the Raiders are enjoying a dramatic change of fortunes this season, putting last year’s disappointment behind them.
With a solid core of talent, the Prince Albert Raiders are currently in good shape to do something they haven’t done since the 1998-99 season: Win the East Division. Morrissey says there are a number of factors that have helped the Raiders turn over a new leaf.
“We really changed the mindset of the team during the offseason,” said Morrissey, who was selected sixth overall by the Warriors in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. “We had a meeting at the end of last year where we established some guidelines, whether it was with off-season training or with our attitude coming into this season, and there was a lot of communication between the coaching staff and the players through the off-season.
“We also made some moves to bring in quality players who are also quality people, and that really helped with making it feel different coming into training camp.
“This whole culture change that has taken place from the way it was in Prince Albert, and it has taken some time, and the work that (general manager) Bruno Campese has done with the guys, have been the biggest reasons for what we’ve been able to do this year,” he said.
Morrissey will be suiting up for Team Cherry at the 2013 Home Hardware CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game on January 16th in Halifax. For more on the even, visit www.homehardwaretopprospects.ca
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