Joe Morrow was sitting in a movie theater in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area Sunday when his phone started buzzing due a wave of internet reports that he had been traded.
“The internet is faster than someone can call you nowadays,” Morrow said.
But there was eventually a call that confirmed all the reports. He was heading to the Dallas Stars as part of the deal that sent Brenden Morrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Morrow the younger was surprised, but saw a new door opening.
“I am looking at it as a good opportunity,” the 20-year-old defenseman said. “It’s a different organization and hopefully I’ll get a shot to play soon, see what I can do and try to benefit their team as much as I would have benefitted any other team”
Morrow, Pittsburgh’s first round pick (23rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is in his first full professional season. He’s played 57 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, registering 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists).
“He plays at a real high level. He’s a dynamic skater and he has a real shot. He ran a power play with Portland (WHL), so he has that capability,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “He plays a real quick game, he defends well. He’s not a punishing guy, but he’s a real good puck transporter. He’s a solid player, over 200 pounds. He’s just an all-around player that can move with the puck.”
Morrow, who is 6-1, 204 pounds and shoots left, put up some big offensive numbers in junior hockey with Portland of the Western Hockey League. Last season he ranked second among all WHL defensemen in scoring with 64 points (17 goals, 47 assists) and was named WHL First-Team All-Star.
In his first year of pro hockey there’s been an adjustment, especially on the defensive side of things. There were some healthy scratches along the way as the coaching staff worked with him to get his defensive game in order.
“I definitely struggled the first half of the season trying to find my place and find positives in what I was doing,” Morrow said. “They nitpicked my game so hard in the defensive zone that I had to change a lot of things. I did that and after the halfway point of the season I’ve played with more confidence and it’s been a steady uphill climb from there. It’s been going good.”
The Stars see a lot of potential in Morrow, projected as a top four defenseman down the road. Morrow sees himself as a two-way defenseman.
“Pace, I like to skate a lot with the puck and I think I am a fairly good skater,” he said. “I’m offensive-minded and I’d classify myself as a two-way defenseman that can play a shutdown role in the defensive zone and also contribute offensively and be a consistent player like that. I have a pretty good shot and I like to shoot the puck. “
The team will get a firsthand look at their new defense prospect this week. He’ll catch a flight to Dallas early Monday morning.
“He’ll come in (Monday) and watch our game (vs. Minnesota) and skate with us Tuesday and Wednesday and just get incorporated,” said Nieuwendyk. “Then we’ll make a decision whether or not we want to put him in a game on Friday (vs. Minnesota) or let him go play with the American League team.”
And knowing that the Stars are just thinking about putting him in a game has Morrow feeling that much better about being traded.
“Hearing that eases the pain of being put on the chopping block,” Morrow said. “It’s extremely exciting to even have the Stars talk about giving me that opportunity. I am going to take it, run with it and see what I can do.”