Josh Morrissey had 38 points in 68 games this season. (Photo by Thomas Porter)
Team Canada’s under-18 squad featured an excellent array of talent and many eyeballs were focused on 2012 draft prospects such as Matt Dumba, Brendan Gaunce and Matt Murray. But the 2013 kids on the roster were just as impressive and one name to remember is Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Josh Morrissey.
In his first full season of Western League play, the Calgary native ranked fourth on the team with 10 goals and 38 points, leading all Raiders blueliners. That was on a bad P.A. team that missed the post-season, but at least gave Morrissey room to grow.
“We didn’t have the best year,” he said. “We had a lot of young guys and we improved as it went on. Personally, I got to play a lot and be in a situation where we’re not the best team and maybe I can take on a leadership role. I put a lot on my defensive game early on and then built my offense, which I knew was there, but I wanted to start from my D-zone out.”
Morrissey notched two assists in the first four games of the under-18s, mainly playing alongside fellow ‘Dub’ defenseman Damon Severson of Kelowna. Like Severson, there are many facets to Morrissey’s game.
“I’m a two-way player,” he said. “I skate with the puck well and I see the ice. My first pass is really strong and I can also jump into the play. I like to see myself as a quarterback when I have the puck out there.”
A high pick in the WHL bantam draft, much was expected of Morrissey coming into the season and talent evaluators believe the buzz will only grow next year.
“Everyone will be talking about Ryan Murray,” said one scout. “But this kid will be next after that. He’s the most dynamic defenseman in the class.”
In preparation for his future, Morrissey has leaned on some pretty elite talent, thanks to his enrollment at Crash Conditioning in his hometown of Calgary.
“I definitely want to get stronger in the off-season, Morrissey said. “There’s an infinite amount of improvement in your conditioning and I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of NHLers and how hard they work.”
Those NHLers include Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle, Chicago’s Duncan Keith and a certain Washington Capitals blueliner known for his own rather dynamic play.
“A couple of times during the season I was able to talk to Mike Green and pick his brain about shooting as you get to higher levels,” Morrissey said. “Obviously he’s had no problem putting the puck in the net, so he always had tips and tidbits for me – goalies are a lot faster, so it’s not always how hard you shoot, but how quick you get it away.”
And while Morrissey makes a name for himself on the ice, it was a great save in a brutally cold Prince Albert parking lot that garnered him the most headlines this year. Morrissey and teammates Shane Danyluk and Carson Perreaux were coming out of a movie theatre when they saw someone dump a bundle into the back of a truck and then take off. Inside was a puppy, who would have frozen to death had the players not brought it into their car until the SPCA arrived.
“It was one of those situations where we saw an animal in distress and we helped it out,” Morrissey said. “We got some media attention to hopefully prevent things like that from happening again in the future. I think he’s out in Vancouver in a big mansion now.”
Fittingly, the puppy was given the name ‘Raider’ before he was adopted. And the movie the boys were coming from? Planet of the Apes.
“Maybe there was an animal connection there,” Morrissey said.
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