In just over one full year since getting selected 13th overall by the Jets in the 2013 NHL Draft, defenceman Josh Morrissey has had a busy schedule.
His 99-game 2013-14 season included captaining the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders into the playoffs, a Christmastime trip over to Sweden to play for Team Canada in the World Juniors and joining the Jets’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s as the IceCaps ventured to within three wins of a Calder Cup.
This week, Morrissey, 19, is attending Hockey Canada’s 2015 World Juniors evaluation camp in Montreal, Brossard and Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he discussed his summer and the coming season.
It’s been a couple months since your season ended. What have you been up to?
Morrissey: “I’ve been training, mostly. It’s been a pretty short summer for me. I didn’t get home until about June 20, with our (St. John’s IceCaps) Calder run there. Since then, I took only about a week off, which isn’t much. I’ve been in the gym training hard. Went away to Kelowna a bit, but other than that I’ve been training.
Every hockey player hopes for the opportunity to play until late June every year. At the same time, playing so deep into the playoffs really shortens your summer after what was already an extremely long season for you. How does this short offseason affect you?
Morrissey: “It makes you reevaluate your summer training. You have to make some adjustments and figure out how you’re going to get your rest within the short timeframe of a (shorter) summer and still get in the gym and get what you need to have done. I’m kind of on an accelerated program, since I’ve only had about six weeks of training.”
We often hear how players need to be bigger, faster and stronger to move up through the ranks, hopefully to the NHL one day. How is this summer’s accelerated training program helping you achieve this?
Morrissey: “Usually, when my trainer designs the program, it’s for a four-month window. In my case, I have just under two. You have to eliminate some things. For me, I’ve been going all out in mid-summer training, maybe eliminating some of the lighter early-summer training that I didn’t have time for this year.
I’ve really noticed a difference. I’ve gained over 10 pounds since the end of the season in June. I think at the end of the season, I was 180, maybe 179 pounds. Now I’m up to 192-193. For me, that’s a pretty big increase. I’ve been pretty happy with that and it’s shown on the ice, I think.”
Gaining 14 pounds of muscle in only six weeks is pretty impressive stuff. You obviously have to be working out pretty heavily in the gym, but what on Earth do you eat?
Morrissey: “What do I not eat is probably the better question (laughs). I try to eat about six meals a day. The biggest thing is never being hungry and always trying to get calories in with good, clean food. I think my (workout) program is catered to that as well.”
Besides the physical stuff, you also experienced quite a few different levels of play last year. As you sit back a bit and digest it all, what was it like joining St. John’s after your season in Prince Albert ended? After all, with four playoff rounds, you ended up playing almost 30 games with the IceCaps.
Morrissey: “It was great getting to St. John’s and experiencing the American Hockey League. It’s competing against men in what many consider the second best league in the world. At first, I was a little nervous. But, once I got going, the coaches were great and it was, all in all, a great experience. I learned a lot and I feel a little more comfortable around older guys in that setting now.”
Anything in particular that some of the older guys in St. John’s taught you?
Morrissey: “You have to be a pro. I think that’s something I’ve been pretty good at the last few years is learning how to be a pro and preparing like a pro. At the next level, you have no choice but to do that. Otherwise, someone is going to take your spot.”
Another major experience for you last season was playing in the World Juniors. Obviously, with Canada getting eliminated in the semifinals and losing the Bronze Medal game, it wasn’t the exact result you wanted. Assuming you’re part of the team again this year, what does Canada have to do to win gold this time around?
Morrissey: “It was tough last year because the only goal you have with Team Canada is winning a gold medal. When you don’t do that, things have to change.
What I really learned, and what I’ve experienced before in different Under-18 tournaments, is that it’s such a one-game, winner-takes-all type of deal. It’s like game sevens all the way through the tournament. You can’t afford a mental lapse or a bad period because it will cost you. We didn’t have our best game in the semifinals, and it’s tough to be playing in that bronze game. I thought our tournament was OK. But, we’re working on being next level, elite players out here because we’ll have to be world class players all the time (to win gold).”