Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey has bulked up significantly over the summer as he will player for either the Raiders or the Winnipeg Jets in the NHL this season. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
After a summer of slacking, Josh Morrissey is back in Prince Albert at Raiders training camp.
Oh yeah, about that slacking...after playing 112 hockey games at the major junior, world junior and professional level in 10 months, Morrissey returned to his hometown of Calgary in mid-June and took ten days off – no hockey, no training, nothing. Just hanging with friends and family and being a not quite so average 19-year-old on summer holidays.
Then, it was back to training hard, quite fitting for a young man looking to live most Canadian boys' dream and make the NHL, on Canada Day.
“Yeah, I didn't have too long of a break, but it felt good finally getting a long time at home,” Morrissey said last week. “I had most of July in Calgary. I didn't have to be travelling to different things like I did the year before after the draft (the Winnipeg Jets selected him 13th overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft).
It was nice to be back at home in my own bed again.”
Now he's back in Prince Albert – his second home, as it has been since the Raiders plucked him sixth overall in the 2010 bantam draft and he joined the team in 2011, but his stay this time might not be much longer than the ten days off he took at the end of June, and he might not be back.
Morrissey will head off to Winnipeg in a couple of weeks and whispers are growing louder that the Raiders captain may earn a spot on the NHL team that could use a quality left-shooting defenceman with some offensive flair.
Morrissey isn't letting the whispers distract him.
“I've been saying that no matter where I am, I'm going to work my hardest and give it my all,” he vowed. “That's the kind of guy I am. Whether I am in Prince Albert or Winnipeg, I am going to give that team everything I have got.”
And, he's got more to give than ever before. Morrissey bulked up over the summer – jumping from a playing weight of about 180 last season to 191 right now, and the difference is visible.
“He's added about ten pounds of lean muscle,” said Raiders GM Bruno Campese. “He's strong and strong on his skates, and he just looks more physically mature.”
For Campese and the Raiders organization, and fans, Morrissey's added size and his impressive success last season is a double-edged sword. They obviously want to see their players be as successful as possible, but the potential of losing their captain and top defenceman this season would leave a huge hole behind. But, just to be safe, the team is preparing for the season ahead like they will not have Morrissey, or their other young phenom Leon Draisaitl who very well could play his way on to the Edmonton Oilers roster during the upcoming NHL preseason.
“That's why we were so thrilled to land Hunter Warner (from the Fargo Force) – a 19-year-old who has played a year in the USHL,” Campese said. It certainly doesn't hurt that he's 6'2 and over 200 poinds either.
If Josh sticks (with Winnipeg) then that is great for Josh and great for our program that we've moved an underager to the NHL,” Campese said. “But if we get him back it will be with open arms – he's our captain and his leadership has been unbelievable for us. He has matured into a really great leader.”
Campese said the Raiders are preparing for the season ahead without Morrissey and Draisaitl, but that he'll be doing cartwheels if the organization gets either player back, which he compared to swinging a big deal at the trade deadline.
As for Morrissey, it is clear from the gleam in his eye and his increased confidence after his amazing 2013-14 season that he desperately wants to make the jump to the NHL this season. But that doesn't mean being returned to Prince Albert would be the end of the world.
“I've had three great years here and no matter where I am, I am going to enjoy it,” he said.
Ultimately, he said he hasn't thought too much about the season ahead, focusing on Raiders camp and then being healthy and ready to go for Jets camp in mid-September. But, if he is with the Raiders for the season, his team goals are already set.
“Obviously, it's to get into the playoffs and then make a push in the playoffs.”
If the Jets decide to allow Morrissey one more year of junior hockey, that statement will be music to Raiders fans’ ears.