College UFAs are always a tempting draw. It’s all of the free development without any of the draft pick risk. Pretty much found money.
But you should really never forget that, occasionally, there’s some perfectly valid reasons that these players did not originally get drafted. They are often low percentage guys who appear to be at least worth a contract due to some promising play. Recent Flames and Flames prospects like Josh Jooris, Garnet Hathaway, and Ryan Lomberg are some decent examples of college UFAs you can find: players who are occasionally useful fourth liners but not much else. Other than that, there’s not much of a chance for them at the NHL level.
Kenney Morrison, 2015 signee, has unfortunately appeared to have fallen into this latter camp. Here’s how he did in 2016-17.
A product from nearby Lloydminster, Morrison wandered the hockey landscape from the BCHL to the USHL before finally settling at Western Michigan University. For the Mustangs, he became a reliable and trustworthy source of offence, nearly scoring half a point-per-game over the course of his career. After a particularly impressive junior season, he signed with the Flames, and reported to the then-Adirondack Flames on an ATO. Morrison gathered a lot of hype after an exciting 10 games, where he scored two goals and notched four assists. Found money.
His first full professional season did not go as well. Unable to grow on that promise, he struggled in Stockton as a second pairing defenceman. It took him 44 games to double his ATO numbers, and he was occasionally a healthy scratch.
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Morrison’s game has, for whatever reason, shifted away from the offensive side. Maybe he’s in a more difficult league, maybe he’s not being given the right opportunities (dropped down to the third pairing this year, healthy scratched for Adam Ollas Mattsson, etc), but maybe he’s just not getting lucky. He had more shots that Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington in fewer games, which is nice, but he doesn’t seem to be making the most of his offensive opportunities (and according to some, his defensive game has suffered for it).
Morrison was mostly alright for the majority of the season – adding an assist here, a goal there – but he was definitely not as good as he was last year, which is still a low bar. He took a step backwards, and at age 25, that’s not great.
Morrison had a promising ATO period and fell apart afterwards. That’s sometimes how it is. He’s 25, a third pairing defender, and has sat out the AHL playoffs thus far. Safe to say his time with the Flames is done.
Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, Stepan Falkovsky, Keegan Kanzig/Mason McDonald, Ryan Culkin/Brett Pollock, Mitchell Mattson, Adam Fox, Brandon Hickey, Riley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison