Morrow Learning the Ropes
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:13 PM
Features By Sam Kasan

Defenseman Joseph Morrow was given the same introduction to the city of Pittsburgh that is received by every first-time visitor to the city.

Driving toward downtown from the airport, Morrow rode through the Liberty Tunnels and the entire city emerged on the other side, opening up a bright future and new world in front of him.

“It’s an outstanding city so far from what I’ve seen,” said Morrow, the Penguins’ 2011 first-round draft pick. “You come through that tunnel from the airport, it goes from a little bit of a jungle to a huge city. That’s a really cool bridge to be on. I’ve never been on anything like that. I really like it.”

Morrow, 18, is one of 28 Penguins prospects in town for the weeklong development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. As part of the camp, Morrow is learning the Penguins system, terminology and philosophy, as well as bonding with fellow prospects.

“It’s extremely important,” Morrow said of the camp. “You get to know all the names and important people around here. Everyone treats you fantastic. I’ve never been treated like this in my life. It’s kind of like I’m royalty. Personally, I don’t think I’m that special of a person. It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

Watching Morrow on ice, it is easy to see why the Penguins brass are excited about his future. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native is a strong skater and gifted two-way defenseman with a big shot. His skating has always been one of his strengths, something he claims is a “natural God given talent handed down to me. I have to use that to my advantage.”

But just being born with a gift isn’t enough to satisfy Morrow. He’s know accomplishing anything takes some effort and sweat.

“My skating is good, but it can be better. My shot is pretty good, but it can be better,” he said. “It took a day or two to get used to this faster pace. I’m starting to get the hang of it a little bit.

“I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up. You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”

Morrow played junior hockey at Portland of the Western Hockey League over the past three-plus seasons. The Winterhawks play an aggressive style in which their defensemen join the attack. Not only does that style mirror that of the Penguins system, it also best suits Morrow’s offensive abilities and overall game.

“From what I’ve seen, even the first couple days of camp, (the styles are) extremely similar,” Morrow said. “From me getting yelled at for not jumping into the play and being lazy back there. That’s what the Winterhawks like, too. Work your can off to get into the play and create that extra man. So far that’s what I like to hear. I’m going to use that every chance I can get. It’s pretty comforting that they like that style of play.”

But what Morrow is taking most from camp is a taste of the NHL and the motivation to get there: a taste of working with Penguins coaches and staff, running through the team’s drills, dressing in the team’s locker room, working out in the Penguins weight room and skating on the ice surface at CONSOL Energy Center.

And a little motivation for him to keep working and progressing so that one day he will join players like Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury in the lineup.

“Being in their dressing room, using their equipment, their stuff, to walk out of their dressing room, down their tunnel in their rink, it’s something special,” he said. “I don’t know what it would be like to step onto that ice with 18,000 people in the building. I’m looking forward to it whenever it comes.”

Morrow at a Glance
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:38 PM
Features By Sam Kasan

The Penguins selected Portland defenseman Joseph Morrow in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here are some quick quotes from Morrow on speaking his mind, possibly playing World Juniors for Team Canada and more…

That would be something really special to make that Canadian World Junior team. I’ve watched that ever since I was little. At Christmas time you sit down, have some good food and look forward to watching World Juniors. To do that in your hometown, having a lot of family and friends support you sitting in the stands would be great for my confidence. It would boost you up a little bit. I can’t even imagine playing for your country. Playing for your province is a little different. Playing for a team in the States is a little different. But playing for an entire country is out of the ordinary.

I say what’s on my mind. I’ve never been too scared to hold back what I’m thinking in my head. Maybe I’ll censor a couple things, which is smart. I’ll speak what I want to say, but I’ll say it smartly.

I spend a lot of time outside. I’m not really an inside type guy, watch TV and sit around all day. I live out on a farm in Alberta. I like to do a lot quading, spending time outside, typical country boy stuff.

I’ve been told by some people that I play like Brent Seabrook, so it got stuck in my head. I watched him after that quite a bit. I really respect the way he plays. He’s an extremely smart hockey player. Some guys have a lot of skill and talent and work really hard, but don’t think the game as well as they should, which would turn them into an All-Star. Seabrook has pretty much everything. He’s got the whole package. You can’t beat that.

I’ve been there for three years now. The first year was a nightmare. It turned around faster than I’ve ever seen any organization flip a switch from off to on. It’s been exciting. You play with some of the best players that I’ve seen in a long time, fourth- and fifth-overall draft picks. We had eight drafted guys. It probably helped me get to where I am today, practicing with those guys, playing with them. You try and make everyone better that’s a round you and they do the same for you. I really appreciated playing in Portland.

Family Matters
Penguins Morrow Comes from Hockey Lineage
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:39 PM
Features By Sam Kasan

Penguins defensive prospect Joseph Morrow plays hockey for a pretty simple reason: it’s in his blood.

Morrow, Pittsburgh’s 2011 first-round draft pick (23rd overall), comes from a family that has produced two (three counting Joseph) NHL draft picks.

Dave Morrow, Joseph’s father, was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks 56th overall in the 1977 NHL Draft. Joseph’s older brother, Josh, was drafted in the seventh round (203rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft by Nashville (when Penguins general manager Ray Shero was serving as assistant GM for the Predators).

“My brother and my dad supported me through everything I did,” Joseph said. “They’ve helped me from skating to shooting to passing. They’ve helped me be a smart hockey player, thinking the game before you do something.”

In fact, the reason Morrow chose to play along the blue line is because both his father and brother were defensemen.

“My dad’s a defenseman, my brother’s a defenseman, so it’s natural to hop into a defenseman’s boots and play like that,” he said. “I thought it was smart to do that, get the best advice from both of them. They’ve been through it all. Being a forward it would have been a little more difficult.”

It’s also not surprising to learn that Morrow followed in his older brother’s footsteps considering that of all the players in the NHL, it was Josh that Joseph idolized the most as a youth.

“Growing up (my idol) was my brother,” Morrow said of Josh, whose playing career was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. “I watched my brother play. He was a tough guy. He was a pretty big, scary dude. I respected everything he did. He was my idol for sure. He brought me into the dressing rooms as a kid. It’s pretty heart warming to know that he really cared about me.”

Of course, the love is mutual between the two brothers.

“On draft day he was a little bit teary eyed to see me get drafted and go high,” Joseph said. “To be selected in the first round is like a dream come true. His heart was right where mine was.”

And just to illustrate Morrow’s priorities, after getting selected by the Penguins at the draft, he has used the past few weeks to spend quality time with the most important people in his life.

“I spent a lot of time at home and with family, enjoyed the moment as much as I could,” Morrow said. “There’s not a lot of chance to spent time with my brother, sister and parents all together. They’re very important to me and I try to keep them as close as possible.”

Joseph Morrow (left) and his older brother Josh (right)