Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Living the dream, one moment at a time

Morrissey may not stick around just yet, but he plans to enjoy every second of it

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It can be a lot to process all at once, especially for an 18-year-old National Hockey League prospect trying to make his way alongside experienced pros -- some of them almost twice his age -- at his first big-league camp.

The advice, as much as he welcomes it, flows in hourly from all directions. And there are days where it seems everybody has a tip or a suggestion. Old timers spin "back-in-the-day" yarns. Coaches dissect every misstep. Family is calling and friends are texting every day.

And Josh Morrissey will look anybody straight in the eye and say this:

"You know what? It's just all been so cool. It's been a lot of fun."

As much as he won't allow himself to say the words or even think them, deep down the Winnipeg Jets' 2013 first-round draft pick understands he will soon be wearing Prince Albert Raiders colours.

The Jets have a lot of defencemen still in town, most of them with NHL experience, and Morrissey is likely best served heading back to the WHL and, possibly, playing a pivotal role for Canada at this year's World Junior Hockey Championships.

But everything Edmonton Oilers star sniper Jordan Eberle told him this summer, all the advice he soaked up from the likes of Zach Bogosian and former Jet-turned-Raiders coach Dave Manson focused on one thing: living in the moment.

"So many people have helped, but the best piece of advice probably came from Eberle back home in Calgary during the summer," said Morrissey after practice on Monday. "He said, 'Go to camp and act like you belong.' He said not be passive in the drills or hold back or defer to an older player. That's really helped me. Obviously, you're learning from those players but when you get into those drills or game situations you have to battle.

"I came in just like I'm here to show my best and make the team. Obviously, it's pretty difficult to do as an 18-year-old player. But when I'm here on the ice or in the weight room that has to be my attitude and my mentality."

It's that kind of answer -- on top of the poise and skills he shows regularly on the ice -- that helped Morrissey win over Jets management prior to this year's draft. The WHL's 2012-13 Scholastic Player of the Year may look like a fresh-faced prospect, but he churns out mature and thoughtful sound bites.

Just as important is his ability to digest all this information coming at him.

"I'm a competitive guy and I like to push myself," said Morrissey. "I want the opportunity. In Belleville (in the exhibition game against Washington) I wanted to be out there against (Alex) Ovechkin in that game and see how good he was and how I matched up against him.

"I'm going to make mistakes, I'm going to get beaten by a player like that. But then I learn and I know what to do for the next time.

"I feel more comfortable today than I did yesterday. And I felt more comfortable yesterday than the day before that. Each day I feel better on the ice... just everything I do now is feeling more comfortable."

Another piece of advice, this one delivered by head coach Claude Noel to all the players, has also been pivotal: enjoy these moments because hockey is supposed to be fun. Not sure if the coach dropped his trademark 'Joy in Joyland' line, but Morrissey is living it.

"I've been trying to do that every day," said Morrissey. "I mean, I'm at my first NHL camp wearing Winnipeg Jets logos and jerseys... that's pretty cool.

"It's been a whirlwind of a summer. There's so many firsts that you experience. Putting the Jets' jersey on at the draft was surreal. Heading to the Development Camp here in the summer and seeing the fans was surreal. Going to the prospects tournament and playing the first game was amazing and then on the weekend playing Washington in a game on Hockey Night in Canada against players like Ovechkin... each day it seems like something new is happening.

"It's been a lot, but it's been amazing at the same time. I've enjoyed every second of it."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2013 D2

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