ST. PAUL, MN – The Pittsburgh Penguins have drafted quite a few players with strong hockey lineage in the past few years. The Penguins have added such players as Philip Samuelsson
(2009 NHL Entry Draft, 61st overall), Alex Velischek
(2009, 123rd) and Andy Bathgate (2009, 151st).
The Penguins went back to the well in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, MN at the Xcel Energy Center. With the 23rd-overall pick, Pittsburgh selected Portland defenseman Joseph Morrow
, whose father, Dan, and brother, Josh, played in the league.
“I think it’s more of a positive than anything, coming from a hockey family,” Morrow said. “You’ve got pretty good genetics behind you and you’re always around hockey. So it’s like family comes first, hockey comes second. I think it’s a positive more than anything else.”
Morrow, 18, is an offensively gifted player that has a powerful shot, and the Penguins brass believes he has tremendous upside with his talents.
“We’re very pleased to get a player like Joseph Morrow
,” Penguins assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said. “We think he’s going to be a top-4 defenseman. He’s got good size. He’s a powerful player, a powerful skater. He already possesses an NHL shot. He will fit well with the style of play that we want to play. We’re thrilled to get him.”
“I like to skate the puck, I like to have an offensive upside to my game, so hopefully I become a more well-rounded defenseman altogether and be really consistent throughout everything,” Morrow said. “I just kind of have a mindset for offense and I can shoot the puck pretty hard, so everything comes together in the offensive end.”
Morrow has spent the previous three-plus seasons with the Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL), totaling 87 points (16G-71A) in 165 games. Entering the draft, he ranked as the 12th-overall North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
|Joseph Morrow speaks to the media after being chosen 23rd overall by the Penguins. |
The Edmonton, Alberta native had to sweat it out in the stands before getting selected by the Penguins. Although when Pittsburgh was on the clock, he had a feeling his name would be called.
“(The waiting) was pretty bad, but the feeling afterward kind of cancelled it out,” Morrow said. “I had a small idea towards the draft, but nothing too evident that they’d actually pick me 23rd. But it’s a phenomenal honor to be picked by the Penguins, and I’m going to do everything I can for this organization.”
Morrow, who is one of 46 players invited to Hockey Canada’s National Junior Development Camp in August, stands at 6-foot and 197 pounds. But playing in the physical WHL has helped him develop into a strong defenseman in his own zone.
“I’m really happy with the route I went on, and the Western League pushed me to be a tougher kid, be a little faster, a little stronger,” he said. “So everything in the Western League really helped my development to see where I am now.
“I try and do everything to contribute physically. If that means fighting, it’s fighting. It’s not a big deal. But just playing a hard game.”
“We’re very pleased to get a player like Joseph Morrow. We think he’s going to be a top-4 defenseman. He’s got good size. He’s a powerful player, a powerful skater. He already possesses an NHL shot. He will fit well with the style of play that we want to play. We’re thrilled to get him. - Penguins assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton
The playing style Portland’s coaching staff likes to teach their players fits right in with the league.
“His (Portland) coach is Mike Johnson, who coached several years as an assistant in the National Hockey League,” Sexton said. “Mike plays a puck-possession, up-tempo, physical game and that’s the way Joseph plays. That fits right in with our style. We like defensemen who can get the puck and get it up the ice quickly. We don't like to spend a lot of time in our zone, and he fits right in with that mold.”
As with any prospect, Morrow still has some developing and maturing to do with his game.
“He’s a strong player physically and he’ll play with an edge,” Sexton said. “He needs to work on his defensive stick positioning, stick-on-stick, stick-on-puck, that type of thing. But that’s fairly easily taught.”
“I would just like to be more sound defensively, just to be a little more aggressive in my own end,” he said. “I’d like to have more authority to do things a little quicker with a little more pressure. Not necessarily physical play, but just kind of the intensity aspect of things.”
Overall, the Penguins feel that they’ve gotten a steal.
“Those are the two famous lines in the draft: we can’t believe he was still there; and we had him rated higher than that,” Sexton said. “Both hold true. He could be a Penguin for a long time.”
WATCH STEVE MEARS INTRODUCE THE NEWEST PITTSBURGH PENGUIN, JOSEPH MORROW: