Josh Morrissey hopes to build on breakout season for Jets
Defenseman, playing for Canada at World Championship, looks forward to growing with young core in Winnipegby Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent
PARIS -- Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey took a big step as a rookie in the NHL this season, and hopes to help the Jets take a few more next season.
"For us, we've got a young team," said Morrissey, 22, representing Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Championship. "I think we really made some strides in some areas.
"For me, it being my first year in the NHL, there was a lot of learning and a lot of fun. I really like our group going forward. We just want to keep building and building and learning even more so how to win."
Winnipeg was 40-35-7 and finished fifth in the Central Division, seven points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
Helping the Jets return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 is on Morrissey's agenda.
He'll play a contributing role if he's able to build on his 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and plus-6 rating in 82 games this season.
"I think going into last season … kind of the goal for me was to become a full-time NHL guy and I was able to do that," Morrissey said. "This year, playing every game during the season, all 82, it was something that is a goal of every player, but to stay healthy … which is sometimes just luck … but having the trust of your coaches to play every game, I took that step forward to becoming an everyday NHL guy.
"Now it's about keeping going and taking it to higher and higher levels forward."
Video: WPG@ANA: Morrissey deflects Wheeler's shot into net
He's already being counted on to take that next step by his teammates.
"He's huge," said Jets center Mark Scheifele, also playing for Canada, 4-0-0 in the tournament after a 3-2 victory against France on Thursday at AccorHotels Arena here. "He's one of the best defensemen on our team. He stepped onto our team and really took the bull by the horns. He was one of our most consistent defensemen throughout the entire season. He just kept getting better and better and better.
"He's a special player for us. He's going to be a key to our future, for sure."
That future could come sooner than later.
Morrissey is part of a young, promising core in Winnipeg that features defenseman Jacob Trouba and forwards Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Calder Trophy finalist Patrik Laine.
There's plenty of potential to push forward, though as Morrissey suggested, potential doesn't win games.
Video: MIN@WPG: Morrissey drills go-ahead goal off post
"All of those things don't really matter unless we do the work and take that so-called hype and ability and move forward with it," he said. "For us as a young group, we're excited about the players we've got, the young players we've got, and the leaders we have.
"I think we have great leadership and a good mix of guys that are veteran players and young guys. Once you're in your second and third years, you're young players but you aren't rookies anymore. That's when you want that hype to come to fruition.
"That takes hard work and dedication to get to that next step."
Results from Thursday:
Canada 3, France 2: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks) scored the winning goal in the third period for Canada in a Group B preliminary round game in Paris. Forwards Ryan O'Reilly (Buffalo Sabres) and Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) also scored for Canada.
Sweden 2, Latvia 0: Goaltender Eddie Lack (Carolina Hurricanes) made 19 saves and forwards Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche) and Elias Lindholm (Hurricanes) scored for Sweden in a Group A preliminary round game at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany.
Russia 3, Denmark 0: Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) made 21 saves for Russia, which remained undefeated (3-1-0-0) in Group A in a preliminary round game in Cologne.
Czech Republic 1, Norway 0: Forward David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) assisted on a goal by forward Jan Kovar for the Czech Republic in a Group B preliminary-round game in Paris.