Defenceman Joshua Morrissey is a staunch advocate of pushing the pace whenever possible for the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League.
"This year, I forced myself to push the pace all the time," Morrissey told NHL.com.
It's no wonder he finished second among rookie WHL blueliners in 2011-12 with 38 points in 68 games and ranked 12th among defenders in scoring this season with 47 points (15 goals) in 70 matches.
"I think I'm a two-way offensive defenceman and I like to play physical," Morrissey said. "I'm not the biggest guy [at 5-foot-11.75, 182 pounds], but I battle hard and kind of have a flair for some open ice hits. So I think I'm kind of an all-around player."
Morrissey certainly displayed that physicality by accumulating 91 penalty minutes this season, but he also showcased that all-round ability with a career-high plus-14 rating for the Raiders.
In his desire to be the best, Morrissey has leaned heavily on the tutelage of some elite company at Crash Conditioning in his hometown of Calgary. There, he's had an opportunity to train with the Edmonton Oilers' Jordan Eberle, Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith and Washington Capitals' Mike Green.
"It's huge to train with them, go on the ice and skate with those guys or work out next to them in the gym," he said. "I watch how hard they push themselves and what they do that makes them pros every day. It's a huge experience and I take so many things from just being around them."
Morrissey has drawn comparisons to Moose Jaw Warriors standout Morgan Rielly, who was chosen fifth by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2012 draft. The alternate captain, ranked No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, is viewed as an all-round player with high hockey IQ and vision.
"He probably has as much hockey sense and sees the ice as well as anybody," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan said. "He's so smooth. He's always a step or two ahead of the play. He can slow the play down, or if you want to speed it up, he can speed it up. He's got a little bit of an edge to his game."
Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, agrees.
"He's a dynamic skater and reaches top speed quickly with good offensive hockey sense," Marr said. "He's willing to battle and doesn't get intimidated, but still needs to physically mature in order to handle one-on-one situations. He gives a good two-way effort, logs a lot of ice time and has a lot of responsibilities."
Prior to being selected sixth in the 2010 WHL bantam draft by the Raiders, Morrissey had 21 goals, 49 points and 108 penalty minutes in 32 games for the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League. He played 30 games for the Royals in the Alberta Midget Hockey League in 2010-11 and had 17 goals and 39 points before joining Prince Albert for five games to close out the season.
"Josh is a solid, top-end defenceman who plays a lot of minutes every night," Prince Albert coach Steve Young said. "He has a well-established skill set on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck and can play in all situations. He's a great competitor with a great work ethic, and is a leader on our hockey club."
Morrissey is playing a big role for Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sochi, Russia. In three games, he has two goals, four points and a plus-6 rating while averaging just over 18 minutes a game.
He had three points in seven games to help his country win the bronze medal at the 2012 World U-18 Championship, and a team-high eight assists to lead his country to a gold medal at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
"It's amazing playing for Canada and having an opportunity to wear the maple leaf, but at the same time just having that chance to play against the best players in your age group at a World Championship is great," Morrissey said. "Some of them were a year older. But it gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer and then into this season. You can take so much and learn so much through those experiences."
NHL Network analyst Craig Button said he is reminded of former NHL defenceman Gary Suter when he watches Morrissey go to work.
"He's got a physical presence and everyone knows to be aware of him on the ice," Button said. "The foundation of Josh's game is skating. He has excellent quickness and agility, and has really strong balance. It's very hard for anyone to take advantage of him because he's such a good skater. He also has excellent puck skills, always looking to make a really good play."
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer