Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

D-man's dream gains steam

Morrissey's goal of cracking NHL looking pretty real

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Josh Morrissey has had his head down, nose to the proverbial grindstone, for weeks upon weeks upon weeks.

So given a brief moment to reflect on the year that was and take a peek at what is ahead, the Winnipeg Jets' 2013 first-round draft pick spent some time Friday reminiscing and dreaming -- on the very same day he turned 19.

Yes, as much as the last 12 months have been eventful -- from being drafted to attending Jets camp and playing in an NHL exhibition game, to being named captain of the Prince Albert Raiders and wearing Canada's colours at the World Junior Hockey Championship -- it's what is next that he has been dreaming about for most of his life.

"My goal since I was 13-14 years old was to try and play in the National Hockey League at 19," began Morrissey, who planned to drive home to Calgary from Prince Albert this weekend before joining the streaking St. John's IceCaps on Monday. "I can remember being four or five, playing hockey, watching it on TV and telling my dad, 'I'm going to play in the NHL.' I'd have my mini-stick out banging it and scratching up the coffee table... that's been my goal.

"It's a pretty unique opportunity. To have the chance to go (to St. John's) and compete against men playing pro hockey is going to be exciting. I'm going to go in with the attitude that I'm just trying to soak everything in"

-- Josh Morrissey

"Since I've become older and worked with the sport psychologists on different teams I'm big on goal-setting. Obviously, it's pretty difficult to make the NHL at all, especially as a 19-year-old. But I've set that as my goal. A lot of it is things you can control, like the work you put in during the off-season and how you conduct yourself. Some of it isn't in your control with so many variables in play in today's NHL. All I can do is control what I can.

"I've always been taught that whatever I do, jump in with both feet. I know there could be setbacks and bumps along the way, but that's when you readjust your goals and figure out what you have to do."

If that last answer has you thinking, "This Morrissey dude is pretty clever" then remember he was the Canadian Hockey League's Scholastic Player of the Year last season. It's that intelligence, both on and off the ice, that impressed the Jets before they called out his name last June, along with his compete level and his voracious appetite for studying the game.

Consider this: In an effort to understand using his stick and body positioning more efficiently this season -- and try and bring a calmer element to his game -- Morrissey found himself watching a ton of video of Detroit Red Wings legend Nik Lidstrom.

It worked, as he was named a WHL all-star this year and is a finalist for the top defenceman award as well, after scoring 28 goals and racking up 73 points in 59 games with the Raiders.

And it's also why many eyes will be on him during his upcoming stint with the IceCaps and then at Jets' main training camp next fall. As for making the NHL at age 19, well, why not?

"It's a pretty unique opportunity," said Morrissey of joining the IceCaps. "To have the chance to go there and compete against men playing pro hockey is going to be exciting. I'm going to go in with the attitude that I'm just trying to soak everything in.

"I am coming into a new team and I don't want to mess it up when everything's been going well. I'll just come in, work hard and keep my head down, try to learn every day and do whatever I can to help the team continue what they've already been doing.

"But," added Morrissey, "there's also mixed emotions. This was my third year in P.A. and, depending on what happens in the next year, there's a realization that I'll never play with that group of guys again. That's definitely disappointing.

"I counter that emotion knowing I have a chance to play more hockey and learn more, instead of going home and having the season over. I shouldn't complain. I'm in a good place."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 C3

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