Head coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday’s preseason opener against Detroit would be an opportunity for players like Joseph Morrow
to make a good impression in their first NHL exhibition game.
Looks like the young defenseman took those words to heart.
Morrow, Pittsburgh’s first-round choice (23rd overall) in the 2011 Entry Draft, shined in his first NHL exhibition game – earning the primary assist on Matt Niskanen
’s game-winner in the Penguins’ 3-2 victory over the Red Wings.
|Joseph Morrow battles with Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. (Getty Images) |
The thought of defending star players like Red Wings sniper Pavel Datsyuk can be a scary thought for a youthful prospect like the 18-year-old Morrow. But he actually couldn’t wait to undertake such a task.
“I didn’t have any nerves coming in this game – I was too excited to play with this caliber of people and everything like that,” Morrow said. “I was too excited to be nervous today.”
And everyone noticed how comfortable and confident he looked playing alongside NHL veterans.
“He looked outstanding,” Bylsma said. “His skating was very good. He looked very comfortable in that regard. And I think as a result, his execution with the puck – he was at ease with it. He wasn’t nervous with it.”
Added Penguins center Evgeni Malkin
: “I see how he plays. He's a great defenseman and great skater. I hope he plays soon with this team.”
Morrow notched his helper on the power play, the play beginning with a faceoff win by Pascal Dupuis
. Arron Asham
jumped on the loose puck and dropped it to Morrow, who immediately swept it to Niskanen for the one-timer.
I didn’t have any nerves coming in this game – I was too excited to play with this caliber of people and everything like that. I was too excited to be nervous today. ... I’ve never had that much fun playing hockey before. - Penguins defenseman Joseph Morrow
Like Bylsma mentioned, one of Morrow’s strongest assets is his skating ability. He used it to his full advantage on Wednesday, one of his finest moments coming when he broke the puck out of the Penguins zone swarmed with Red Wings players.
He powered past them and sent a pass through the neutral zone behind the defense right to the stick of Asham, who embarked on a breakaway.
“He made a great play for Asham on the breakaway that a lot of NHL players don’t make,” Bylsma said. “He was good skating, skated up the ice and delivered that puck and sent ‘Ash’ in on a breakaway.”
Morrow was appreciative of the chance to play alongside another smooth-skating defenseman in Kris Letang
"It was fantastic to be able to play with him," Morrow said. "I probably wouldn’t have played as well without him. He guided me through, he gave me tips on the game, he talked to me. He did everything he could to help me feel comfortable and I really appreciate that. I couldn’t ask for a better defensive partner tonight."
Morrow’s mettle didn’t happen overnight – he’s been building his confidence for a while now, beginning with the 2011 rookie tournament in Oshawa, Ontario from Sep. 9-13 and through these last few days of training camp.
He’s enjoyed every second of his experiences.
“With the two weeks that I’ve had at this training camp and everything with the rookie tournament, it kind of slowly progressed into this state where it’s just sort of fast,” he said. “I felt pretty comfortable with everything and it was pretty enjoyable.
“I’ve never had that much fun playing hockey before.”RELATED: Malkin Solid in Return to Game Action RELATED: Pens-Red Wings (Preseason) In-Game Blog RELATED: Penguins Report: (Preseason) Game Day vs. Detroit