Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

He's Mensa material

Jets' first pick Morrissey has off-the-charts hockey IQ

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The skill is there, that much is clear. A guy doesn't go 13th overall in the National Hockey League Draft without having the tools to make scouts drool.

But ask around the hockey world about Josh Morrissey and invariably the first terms mentioned to describe the Winnipeg Jets' 2013 first-round draft choice are things such as "hockey IQ" and "competitiveness," "upside" and "character" -- intangibles not measured by the scoring summary.

"His hockey sense is off the charts, his character is off the charts," said former Jets defenceman Dave Manson, a Prince Albert Raiders associate coach who has been instrumental in Morrissey's development. "He's going to be a pro for sure. Guaranteed.

'His hockey sense is off the charts, his character is off the charts. He's going to be a pro for sure. Guaranteed'

-- ex-Jet Dave Manson, now an associate coach for the Prince Albert Raiders

"He's very coachable and knows exactly what he wants to do: he wants to play hockey for a living. He's like a sponge in terms of soaking up hockey knowledge. He's got great skill, he's got a compete level second to none. He's a gamer."

The Jets were one of 27 teams to interview Morrissey before the draft and his meetings with the club's brass -- twice with the big guns, two times with the scouts -- gave the team even more reason to be enamoured by the Western Hockey League's Scholastic Player of the Year and invitee to this summer's Team Canada World Junior Championships selection camp.

"He's a real character kid, real genuine, hard-working... I just can't say enough about those aspects," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "That's all part of it, though. The interview process comes into play but it's his play on the ice that speaks for itself.

'He's a real character kid, real genuine, hard-working... I just can't say enough about those aspects'

-- Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

"He's a player that possesses a lot of things that we really like in a defenceman in the way the game is played right now. A great skater, good hockey sense, can move the puck and has a little bit of an edge. He has the elements we think it takes to play at the National Hockey League level and be an impact player on defence.

"One thing he said in the interview was he likes to get some hits in early in the game to keep the other players' heads up, but also to get him going. He's got good qualities to make an all-round defenceman."

A Calgary product who was partnered with Darnell Nurse on Canada's No. 1 defensive pairing at last summer's Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament, Morrissey was ranked lower in the first round by most NHL scouts. His game still needs to mature, but afterward, the analysts were comparing him to Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings and suggesting he'd make an excellent partner for Jacob Trouba, who could crack the Jets' roster as soon as this fall.

"I'd like to be in (the NHL) as soon as possible," said Morrissey. "I'm going to go to camp this year and do everything I can to make them not send me home -- or give them the toughest decision. Obviously, that's a pretty hard thing to do. I'll just go and work really hard this off-season and see where it takes me.

"My offensive side has really come. I've been working on my defensive game, but my offensive game has really flourished and really become better and better as time has gone on here."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

FroliK pumped to be a jet /C4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2013 C1

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