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Marvelous Morrissey

Jets' prospect playing better than ever

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IceCaps defenceman Josh Morrissey has logged a lot of miles this season, and is developing into a legitimate contender for a spot on the Jets this fall.

CHRISTINA SHAPIRO/TEXAS STARS Enlarge Image

IceCaps defenceman Josh Morrissey has logged a lot of miles this season, and is developing into a legitimate contender for a spot on the Jets this fall.

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- If any hockey player is overworked in the 2013-14 season, his name could be Josh Morrissey.

Since last August when his competition year began, Sunday night's opener of the Calder Cup final was game No. 108 for the 19-year-old defenceman, the 2013 first-round pick of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.

And yet here is the agile, young blue-liner as fired up and as effective as he's been all season, ready to help the St. John's IceCaps take a run at the AHL title.

"It's definitely been a battle," Morrissey said Sunday morning at Cedar Park Center, where the IceCaps met the Texas Stars for Game 1 of the final. "Any time you get to this point of the season, you've played a lot of hockey. There are some days you're pretty tired, but at the same time I've found myself able to get mentally prepared for the games. I've had enough practice preparing for games after 107, so I think I know how to do that now."

'It's definitely been a battle. Any time you get to this point of the season, you've played a lot of hockey'

-- IceCaps defenceman and Jets prospect Josh Morrissey

Nutrition, hydration and rest have kept him ready, Morrissey said. "Funny enough, I feel pretty good physically," he said.

Good enough to have made the transition from the regular WHL season, where he led league defencemen with 28 goals, and then five playoff games more, to the pro level with the IceCaps once his Prince Albert Raiders were eliminated.

In his 24 games for St. John's, his impact has been increasing, not decreasing, with each start. Sunday, he added his ninth point of the AHL playoffs, an assist.

"With regards to wear and tear, he's been fine," said IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge. "What Josh does well is that he's not a guy who takes a lot of heavy contact. He eludes checks. He's an elusive skater. He's not putting himself in bad positions where he has to take those heavy hits."

McCambridge said he's well aware of Morrissey's odometer this season between the Jets (two pre-season games) Prince Albert, Team Canada and the IceCaps.

"That's been something that's been discussed," the coach said. "But we all feel the opportunity to bring him in as soon as Prince Albert was done... outweighed the negative effects of playing a lot of hockey."

In these playoffs, Morrissey has turned himself into a regular so quickly it has kick-started speculation he'll have more than a decent shot at making Winnipeg his address next season. It's evident he is not yet blessed with great strength, and that will be an issue, but there's no denying his quickness can make a lot of things happen.

"I didn't really know what to expect but I did know quite a few of the guys from camp," Morrissey said about his AHL games this April, May and June. "But that had been awhile since I played with pro guys, so the first while was a bit of a transition. I think my first seven, eight games, were a bit of a transition... feeling more comfortable and comfortable around the guys.

"You come in and some guys have families and some are 15 years older than you and it's a little bit strange, but once you get in the dressing room and get to know everyone, it's just normal. I felt comfortable pretty quickly and the guys were pretty good with me."

Defenceman Zach Redmond, who bounced between the Jets and IceCaps this season, said Morrissey's play is a strong indication the Jets have a keeper in last June's 13th overall pick.

"I think that what he's doing at such a young age is obviously very rare," Redmond said. "That's why he got taken so high in the draft. Would I be able to do that at his age? I don't think so.

"He's a special player and I'm glad he can step right in. I think he has a good future, especially with the way the game is shaping up."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2014 C4

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