Flames First Round Targets 2013: Josh Morrissey



This year’s draft is being lauded for the number of highly-skilled forwards in it. With names like MacKinnon, Drouin and Barkov being tossed again, it’s easy to forget sometimes that there are also a lot of high-level defensive prospects available on June 30. Everyone knows about Seth Jones. A lot of people know about Darnell Nurse and his impressive lineage. But not a lot of people know about an excellent blueliner that’s been honing his craft right in the Flames back yard.

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That blueliner is Josh Morrissey of the Prince Albert Raiders.


I had the opportunity to watch Morrissey against the Hitmen. I came away impressed.

He’s not an amazingly large human being, but he uses what size he has fairly well. He’s got strong positioning and pretty good skating, and it was extremely labourous for the Hitmen forwards to zip around him, as he was able to keep up pretty well – both in terms of foot-speed and anticipating the play.

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To be blunt, Morrissey ain’t the kind of defender that you’re going to notice a lot at even-strength. And that’s a good thing. You notice defensemen if they’re doing things wrong – being out of position, getting burnt on coverage, making bad passes or taking penalties – and Morrissey doesn’t do those things. But he shines on the power-play. He’s got an absolute laser-beam of a shot and it’s accurate enough to snipe the top corner from just inside the blueline.

Other observers have said similar things about his game.

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports:

The key to Morrissey’s games is his outstanding skating ability. He joins fellow WHL defence prospect Ryan Pulock as being amongst the best skating defencemen in this draft class. His stride is fluid, and he has excellent top speed both backwards and forward. His first step is quick, and he accelerates quickly helping him to reach that top speed in just a few steps. His agility, edgework, and pivots are very strong and fluid, giving him excellent mobility, and allowing him to cover a lot of ice, whether it be opening up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone, skating the puck out of his own zone and through neutral ice, or covering up defensively against the rush or the cycle.

Zenon Herasymiuk of Dobber Prospects:

Josh Morrissey is a gifted offensive defenseman with the ability to contribute offense on both the power play and in five-on-five situations. Morrissey is an unbelievable skater and also has the ability to throw some big open ice checks if the opportunity presents itself. In 35 games this year for the Prince Albert Raiders, Morrissey has compiled 25 points. He will have to continue to improve his defensive game as well as adding a bit of size to his frame to be successful at the next level. Morrissey will play for Team Cherry at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Prospects Game in January.

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Short version: Morrissey’s strengths are high-end skating, offensive acumen and smarts. His weaknesses are size and physical strength which can limit his defensive effectiveness.

Rankings-wise, Morrissey’s one of those players that has jumped all over the place depending where you look. TSN has him at 15, ISS has him at 21, Central Scouting has him at 27, Corey Proman ranks him 20th, Future Considerations has him at 16 and The Hockey Writers’ January rankings have him at 9. As of April, the NHLNumbers consensus across various scouting sources had Morrissey at 14th.

Generally it seems that Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse and Nikita Zadorov will probably be chosen before Morrissey. And there’s a chance that Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Pulock will be al well, which means there’s a significant chance the Flames would be able to grab him with either of the St. Louis or the Pittsburgh picks. That said, there’s also a chance someone else really like him and Josh goes in the first half of the first round.


Morrissey was a workhorse and a leader for the Prince Albert Raiders this season, and his numbers reflect that. He posted 47 points in 70 games, with 15 goals. Five of those were on the power-play, but four of them were also game-winners. He was the team’s leader in scoring from the back-end and had more goals than a lot of his team’s forwards, finishing 6th overall in team scoring. The Raiders leading scoring was former first round pick Mark McNeil and he only managed 20 more points than Morrissey in the regular season.

Looking at his game-to-game season totals, a few patterns emerge…

For one, Morrissey is consistent. There weren’t a lot of stretches where he went without a point. That’s good. And generally, his plus/minus – typically a product of the entire team’s play – reflects how the game went. Very rarely did Morrissey have a bad plus/minus and the team won. Most of the time, if he did well, the team did also (and the opposite).

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I’m not sure if I should be nervous about his reliance on power-play production, though. Morrissey produced 24 points on the powerplay (5 goals, 19 assists or 40% of his output). That’s pretty strong. But he only had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) at even strength (47%), which means that potentially there’s an alarming reliance on powerplay production. That means he’s either a stout defensive defenseman at ES that only takes chances on the powerplay (which is what I saw in the viewing I had of him against Calgary), or he struggles to get the puck and produce against kids at the junior level. I lean towards the first explanation.

He’s a defenseman and I don’t think offensive production skewing towards any particular area is too concerning, but it’s worth thinking about a bit. Usually defenders are far more reliant on special teams ice time and circumstances to produce, however, even at the NHL level. It’s the nature of the position.


Ben Kerr compares Morrissey to Alex Edler, and I can see why. Morrissey’s a good two-way defenseman at even-strength that comes alive offensively on the power-play. There are obviously a few wrinkles in his game, but he’s shown a lot of promise on a middling WHL squad in Prince Albert.

He’ll need to build some muscle onto his 190 pound frame to really excel at the next level, but Morrissey should be a good choice for a team picking in the latter parts of the first round. Considering the Flames have likely seen him quite a bit at the Saddledome over the past few years, they likely know what they’d be getting if they select him.

Although the Flames most glaring need is probably up front/down the middle, the organization’s prospect depth chart is extremely thin when it comes to offensive/two-way blueliners after the graduation of TJ Brodie. Morrissey would instantly become the Flames best bet to become a point-producer from the back-end if they decide to pick him this June.

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Flames First Round Targets

Around the Nation

In his article today, Jonathan Willis wonders if Antti Raanta will be the the next experienced European goalie to make a splash in the NHL:

The risk is that Raanta won’t be a plug-and-play guy at the NHL level, like those two (and Riku Helenius); he wouldn’t be the first European goalie to need an adjustment period to North America.The reward is the real possibility of landing a high-end starter Backstrom who went from ‘unknown European guy in training camp’ to ‘high-end NHL starter’ basically overnight…

  • McRib

    I think he would be a great pick for our 21-22 pick. And I think he is still better than Zadarov and almost as good as Pulock. If we were shooting for getting a defenseman, I’d like to package both of our late picks for buffalo’s 16. Then maybe there we could get Ristolainen as he projects to being a solid top 2.

  • Morrissey’s development took a huge jump when he went to the U-18 and subsequent camps. Bruno in PA was getting nothing out of him early in the season, soft, turnovers all over the ice and given his frame… pretty much zero chance in battles in his own end.
    On return from the other coaches having a go at him… the lights seemed to come on. He has always had a great outlet pass but the rest of his game seemed to man up a considerable level. Im not sure if he will continue on that incline.
    We have seen the erratic nature of the development line on young puck mover style kids watching the likes of Brodie and…. Petry in etown, they figure it out… then fall off the face of the earth, then the lights come on…. then darkness….

  • Avalain

    Could his low ES numbers perhaps also have to do with coaching systems? I mean, defensemen are generally going to get points as a result of passing out of the zone and having your forwards score on the rush, or simply from a system where players cycle the puck back to the point. If the team is playing a game like San Jose did yesterday (yes, I know Boyle scored) there aren’t as many opportunities for that. They weren’t scoring on the rush; they were dumping in the puck and chasing. They were also cycling a ton down low and it wasn’t really getting back to the defense very often.

    Of course, I have no idea what system they play or anything, but this seems like a possible case. I mean, look at Bouw and how coaching styles can affect defensive numbers.

  • Shoestring

    Smooth skater for sure. I have watched him a few times this past season.Regular season and in the playoffs against Red Deer. Looks good, but is not physical at all and seemed to be out muscled very easily. But should bulk up over time. PA wasn’t a high offense team so I would suggest his points from the backend seem quite admirable. I liked his shot and picked good times to drop into the soft areas for scoring chances.I don’t like him enough to take him with the Stl pick but if there for Pit pick, could be the right time to take him.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Yeah, I don’t know that the Flames should go for a defender with the StL pick, period. To my eye, Petan looks like the best guy to take with it (he’d as likely be gone by the Pitts pick as not), and then the Pittsburgh pick can be used on whoever is the best remaining defender.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I really don’t expect the Flames to have 3 picks in the first. My bet is they package 1 of the 3 off for an RFA that another team is unable to sign under the cap. If this is the case, I’d rather see the Flames pick up 2 forwards in the first round.

  • Shoestring

    I feel Calgary should take forwards first. I don’t really like Petan I would pick another, like suggested Wennburg/Rychel/Hartman. I was thinking, doubt it would happen but Calgary trade the Pit pick to Mtl for the 34th and 36th pick.

  • Shoestring

    Nice write up ….. gotta go center at #6 the the best available forward with the next 2 first rounders …. hopefully netting 2 centers and a RW ….

    There are plenty of great forwards here that this strategy will be a strong start to the rebuild ….

  • Shoestring

    A question for my fellow commenters…..

    I did not agree with the homerun swing Feaster and our Hockey Operations Department took when selecting Jankowski last June.

    How high of a pick could we get straight up for Janko in this draft? Could he be packaged with a Granlund or a Broissoit (or both) and would that move us into a top-5 position? On the surface it may appear to be overpayment, but if we had two top-6 picks this year, plus two later first rounders…..

    I’m not sold on either Janko or Granlund. We may actually have enough goalie depth long-term to part with Broissoit.

    What do you think, folks? Kent? Clyde?

    • everton fc

      I’m in your camp, Meat. Jankowski was a wreckless pick for a franchise on the cusp of the deadzone. Granlund is a dime-a-dozen, really – not to mention he’s on the smallish/no-grit side of the scale. Johnny G and Broissoit were sound picks. But the aforemention duo…??

      No one will give anything for Janko, because he’s unproven, and didn’t exactly stun anyone in the NCAA.

      As for Morrisey, I like Brandon’s Eric Roy better. And he might be around in the 2nd round, and is ranked 41st amongst North American players in Hockey Futures. The only thing I don’t like about Roy is he seems to grab the pants and dump guys a lot to end fights early. But he’s 6’3″, 190lbs. Could be a nice addition to the back line with guys like Cudari (if he’s actually an NHL defencemen), and Wotherspoon…

      • @ Meat1
        I agree to a degree with Kent. I do think both would garner more than consideration as minor throw ins at this point but not enough to move you up in the first round, especially in that top 10 area. Both could be attractive as add ons in a trade especially after Granlunds’s World Junior performance.

  • Shoestring

    Even Patrick Roy says the #1 overall pick is up for grabs. You have to know Jay Feaster is in on the bidding. What are we offering for Nate MacKinnon?…

  • Shoestring

    Good article I would be extremely thrilled with the flames ending up with Morrissey. This is how I’m hoping the flames draft goes down

    6th – Nichushkin , Monahan
    22 – Horvat(looooong shot), Pulock, Morrissey
    Pitt – Trade down for 2 2nd round picks

    Now I will begin praying to the hockey gods we somehow win the McDavid lottery in 2 years.

  • For those who are so down on the Jankowski pick keep in mind that the guys who might have been taken with the Flames 14th pick were people like Cici and Matta. By moving down to 21 they got Jankowski and a 2nd round pick who was Seilof. So the question is was that so bad? It is early to judge , but Seilof has a good chance to be as good or very close to those guys and you still have Jankowski who was days from being in this years draft for close to free.
    At a season ticket holder meeting Feaster said that Jankowski was used primarily on the wing this past season, but is expected to be back at centre this coming year where he is expected to play in the long run.

    • I agree it’s too early to really judge anything. We’ll see how these guys wash out.

      I think the potential big miss is Teuvo Tervainen, who was considered a top-10 talent by some and dropped to 18 (so, was within the Flames range).

      Tervainen scored 31 points in 44 games in the SM-liiga this year. That’s an NHLE of 31 vs. Janko’s of 18, which he managed to do in a tougher league. What’s more, Teravainen was born just a couple of days earlier than Janko, so is just as a young.

      There’s still a lot of time for things to change here. The early returns, at least in regards to Janko, are underwhelming is all.

      • I don’t recall much about Tervainen so thanks for that.
        You outlined his performance from this year which is quite impressive, but that is a year after the draft.I’d have to check just how good he look based on last years data prior to the draft.
        Then there is the unknown as whether the Flames would have chosen him at 14th anyway.
        All that being said it still boils down to whether the Flames would be better off with Tervainen or Janko & Seilof.
        I guess we won’t know that for a few years, but right now I think I would take the a latter.

  • Feaster should throw everything at the Avs to get that #1. Priblem is I’d rather have him target Tampa’s pick at #3 because Drouin isn’t much worse than Mackinnon. Jones, Mackinnon and Drouin all bring different qualities to the table. If we do trade with one of these teams, and it surely won’t be without our #6, it will likely be a lower price for Drouin. #6 and #23 and our 3rd for next year straight up for their #3? Too much?