2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 12 Joe Morrow

Not many people know about Portland Winterhawks defenseman Joe Morrow, probably because he wasn’t much of a draft specimen until last season. In his rookie season in the Western League, he failed to score a goal and posted just seven points in 41 games – including a dismal minus-7 rating.

Two seasons later, however, he is the 12th-ranked North American skater for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, after posting 40 assists and 49 points and a plus-23 rating in 60 games.

“He’s playing very good this year,” said NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald in an interview with NHL.com. “Really poised with the puck, has good, smart puck movement. He’s played really well for Portland so far – anchors their defense.”

At 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, Morrow is a surprisingly good skater for his size, and plays well in the defensive zone. His hockey sense is good, but has room for some improvement, while he still needs to physically mature into his body.

“He sees the ice well and has a real steady touch with the puck, able to get it out of the zone quickly and up for the attack,” said Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. “He has a cannon shot from the point that he likes to use. He could stand to work on the mechanics and getting it off a little faster, but when you have a howitzer like that, it makes life nice when on the power play.”

As for inspirations, Morrow looks to his father and his brother. His dad, Dave, was picked in the fourth round of the 1977 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, while his brother, Josh, got drafted in the seventh round of the 2002 draft by the Nashville Predators.

Since jumping to the WHL, Morrow admits he had a bit of trouble adjusting to the increase in skill – something scouts are afraid of when he eventually jumps to the NHL.

“The WHL is much faster, so I had to work on my skating, and also to learn to be a little smarter with the way I moved the puck,” said Morrow in an interview with McKeen’s. “I also found that I had to improve my speed on my lateral and pivot movements. I also felt the need to get stronger in my upper body because this league has lots of guys that are not only fast, but play the game with a physical edge.”

In addition to his skillset that worries scouts, he has also had injury problems, including a back injury last season and a recurring groin injury at the start of the 2010-11 campaign. All of these injuries, mixed with his struggles to adjust to a different style of play, could ultimately lead to him dropping down the draft board to the bottom of the first round. But there is no reason not to expect him to make an NHL roster within two or three years of being drafted, with the potential upside of being a solid top-four NHL defenseman.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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