Going into the 2012-2013 season, few had Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Josh Morrissey as a first-round pick, but thanks to a blazing offensive season from the Calgary, Alberta native he has torpedoed into a potential top-15 pick, and is right up there challenging Ryan Pulock to be the second-best WHL blue-line prospect after Seth Jones.
Morrissey is an explosive offensive defenseman who can skate with the best of them and quarterback a highly efficient powerplay. He also has significant international and high-pressure experience winning gold with Canada at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament, leading all defensemen in scoring (tied) while posting the event's top plus/minus. He followed up a solid 38-point point rookie campaign in 2012 with 47 in 70 games points in 2013.
|2011-12||Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)||68||10||28||38||-2||60|
|2012-13||Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)||70||15||32||47||+14||91|
Morrissey is a slightly undersized defenseman (6'0", 185 lbs) who doesn't shy away from physical contact, in fact delivering the type of hits that we have become used to seeing from a current young blue-liner wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge. That's right. Josh Morrissey may not be P.K. Subban, but nobody thought PK would become the force we know now when he was drafted back in 2007. Morrissey is also a feisty player, recording 91 PIM this year. He has the tools, most importantly elite skating, to potentially become an offensively dynamic top-pairing defenseman. The downside? If his defense doesn't continue to develop and he doesn't bulk up, he may more closely resemble a Marc-Andre Bergeron type of powerplay specialist.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus:
Morrissey is a dynamic offensive defenseman with a ton of plus skills. He has amassed a considerable number of points for a 1995 birthdate over his last two WHL seasons. His strongest tool is his skating, which is easily high end, if not better. He has a very graceful stride, and his footwork is precise in any direction. His top gear, agility, pivots, and gap control stand out in each game he plays. He is also a top-end puck mover, frequently making aware and accurate passes. He can run the point on a top power play unit, jump into the rush, make a good outlet, and flash a highlight reel play with the puck. His defensive awareness is solid, and he has killed penalties at times. Still, he faces a significant issue in his physicality. I would not describe him as soft, as he can make a quality hit at times, but he often is outmuscled for pucks. Coupling this aspect of his game with his undersized frame makes him a risk at the top level.
Morrissey is a strong, two-way blue liner with some excitement to his game...His ability to skate the puck out of trouble is also evident. He may pick the puck out of a scrum and before you can blink he has taken two strong steps up the ice and puts it on a teammates stick...He does that all with great puck control as one of his true strengths. He makes tough passes look way too easy...He doesn't have an overpowering shot but has a knack for getting a quick wrist shot into the goalies pads creating a rebound...Extremely smart player with high hockey IQ...Also plays with a ton of grit in his game...His lack of strength hurts his ability to fend off bigger opponents in the corners and in front of the net but he never backs down...He has the potential to get much stronger in his lower body, as he looks like he's got skinny legs.
Natural puckmover - quick and elusive...flows instinctively into the rush and is able to spring quick breakout feeds...packs a powerful and compact slapshot plus a lethal snapshot...can fire a sizzling wristshot in top gear...neither big nor strong by NHL standards - yet has some abrasiveness and cockiness to his game...can be quite soft defending the crease area in particular and will get outmuscled in 1-on-1 battles along the boards...The skill, mobility, and upside give him attractive upside, but his strength and defensive play will have to develop to ensure something more than specialist duty at the NHL level.
ISS Rank: 21
Craig Button Rank: 15
FC Rank: 15
McKeen's Rank: 18
Pronman Rank: 20
Hockey News Rank: 19
Average Rank: 18
Personal Rank: 11
I had originally felt that the Canadiens would absolutely need to trade up to get Morrissey, but as the stocks of other players rise, it's becoming possible that he is available at 25th overall. He is one of my top realistic targets for the team with the potential to develop into a slightly less physical, left-handed complement to PK Subban on the blue-line for years to come.