Defenseman Joseph Morrow
was given the same introduction to the city of Pittsburgh that is received by every first-time visitor to the city.
Driving toward downtown from the airport, Morrow rode through the Liberty Tunnels and the entire city emerged on the other side, opening up a bright future and new world in front of him.
“It’s an outstanding city so far from what I’ve seen,” said Morrow, the Penguins’ 2011 first-round draft pick. “You come through that tunnel from the airport, it goes from a little bit of a jungle to a huge city. That’s a really cool bridge to be on. I’ve never been on anything like that. I really like it.”
Morrow, 18, is one of 28 Penguins prospects in town for the weeklong development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. As part of the camp, Morrow is learning the Penguins system, terminology and philosophy, as well as bonding with fellow prospects.
“It’s extremely important,” Morrow said of the camp. “You get to know all the names and important people around here. Everyone treats you fantastic. I’ve never been treated like this in my life. It’s kind of like I’m royalty. Personally, I don’t think I’m that special of a person. It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
Watching Morrow on ice, it is easy to see why the Penguins brass are excited about his future. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native is a strong skater and gifted two-way defenseman with a big shot. His skating has always been one of his strengths, something he claims is a “natural God given talent handed down to me. I have to use that to my advantage.”
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But just being born with a gift isn’t enough to satisfy Morrow. He’s know accomplishing anything takes some effort and sweat.
“My skating is good, but it can be better. My shot is pretty good, but it can be better,” he said. “It took a day or two to get used to this faster pace. I’m starting to get the hang of it a little bit.
“I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up. You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”
Morrow played junior hockey at Portland of the Western Hockey League over the past three-plus seasons. The Winterhawks play an aggressive style in which their defensemen join the attack. Not only does that style mirror that of the Penguins system, it also best suits Morrow’s offensive abilities and overall game.
“From what I’ve seen, even the first couple days of camp, (the styles are) extremely similar,” Morrow said. “From me getting yelled at for not jumping into the play and being lazy back there. That’s what the Winterhawks like, too. Work your can off to get into the play and create that extra man. So far that’s what I like to hear. I’m going to use that every chance I can get. It’s pretty comforting that they like that style of play.”
But what Morrow is taking most from camp is a taste of the NHL and the motivation to get there: a taste of working with Penguins coaches and staff, running through the team’s drills, dressing in the team’s locker room, working out in the Penguins weight room and skating on the ice surface at CONSOL Energy Center.
And a little motivation for him to keep working and progressing so that one day he will join players like Sidney Crosby
and Marc-Andre Fleury
in the lineup.
“Being in their dressing room, using their equipment, their stuff, to walk out of their dressing room, down their tunnel in their rink, it’s something special,” he said. “I don’t know what it would be like to step onto that ice with 18,000 people in the building. I’m looking forward to it whenever it comes.”