Young blueliner will get his best shot yet to make NHL club
The Winnipeg Jets have been hitting some home runs in the first round of the NHL entry draft since their first-ever pick left fans and others around the NHL surprised and a little perplexed when they announced Mark Scheifele back in 2011, rather than Sean Couturier who had speculated at one point as a number one overall pick.
Scheifele has proven to be a shrewd move and has grown into the player they believed he could be. Although there are stormy waters right now, 2012 pick Jacob Trouba has proven to be a high caliber NHL defenceman. 2014 pick Nik Ehlers lived up to his pre-draft billing and finished last season very strong – leading to increased expectations this season.
And 2015 pick Kyle Connor’s NCAA season last year has fans licking their chops, 2015 pick Jack Roslovic has perhaps been the Jets’ most impressive young player heading into preseason and the entire hockey world will be watching 2016 first round pick Patrik Laine’s career trajectory, while Logan Stanley remains a significant project.
The one draft year missing is 2013. That was the year Winnipeg went with young, cerebral Josh Morrissey in the first round, 13th overall. Morrissey was a talented offensively-gifted defenceman who was dazzling Western Hockey League fans.
Then, after being drafted he went back to the Prince Albert Raiders the following season and dominated the league.
After an early playoff exit, he was off to the St. John’s Ice Caps where he played a huge role in the team’s run to the Calder Cup Finals, notching two goals and seven assists in 20 games.
It seems the world was his oyster and he was on the verge of cracking the NHL. But after a disappointing 2014 training camp, he was disappointed to be sent back to junior once again and although his offensive numbers were still solid, they were a significant drop-off from the previous year.
Then in 2015-2016, Morrissey got off to a painfully slow start with the Manitoba Moose and some people started to whisper the word bust in the same sentence as Morrissey.
But Morrissey’s horrible start coincided with the team’s absolutely dismal early season where wins were almost non-existent. But about halfway through the season, the team started to find success, and it was the same story for Morrissey.
Something seemed to click and he started to pile up points and show some of the offensive flash that first got him noticed.
But a late injury struck and he missed some late season opportunities to get some NHL time as a result. He did play one NHL game last year, stepping in for the injured Jacob Trouba and had a solid outing.
Now the Calgary product has come to camp healthier, stronger and more determined than ever to make the NHL roster.
Morrissey was already a real candidate to take that next step, but with the Trouba quagmire popping up, he will be given more opportunity than ever before to prove he belongs, and could even be fighting for a top four role.
His one game last year saw him paired with Myers, and there seemed to be some quick chemistry there.
Morrissey will see his first taste of preseason action this year Tuesday night vs. Calgary.