BOSTON — It’s time for Joe Morrow to become an everyday NHL player.
Morrow was one of the best assets the Bruins acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, and he’s spent three full seasons in the AHL between the Texas Stars and Providence Bruins. With Bruins head coach Claude Julien incorporating a faster-paced style that caters more toward skill players this season, Morrow is in a prime position to make the NHL roster out of training camp.
“After one day, it’s hard to tell how it’s going to work out for everybody,” Morrow said Friday after his first on-ice practice of camp. “It’s a great system, it really caters to the skating ability of the players on the team and everyone around it. It’ll create a lot more offense and show the talent and skill level we have in camp this year and throughout the season.”
The 22-year-old defenseman has plenty of offensive skill. He creates offense with good play-making ability, a good first pass on breakouts and smooth skating to lead the rush, and he has an accurate shot from the point.
Those skills should be maximized in the Bruins’ system.
“With my skating ability and the things I can do on the ice, I think it will be more effective come game time,” Morrow said. “The majority of the players on this team skate well, and that’s kind of what they pride themselves on, the whole conditioning aspect of things and being in shape and producing at a high level. It really should work out.
“It’s just more of an offensive-minded approach. Push the pace of play and show more of a skill level this year rather than the gritty performance and gritty defensive aspect of things. It’s still going to be there 100 percent. That part is not going to change at all. But you will see a lot more of the skilled forwards and skilled defensemen contribute to the offense a lot more.”
The system fits Morrow, but the Bruins have 10-plus defensemen competing for six, maybe seven, spots on Boston’s blue line for opening night. Seven of them have one-way contracts, which means they must pass through waivers to go down to Providence. Teams rarely take that risk, especially when quality D-men are hard to acquire.
B’s general manager Don Sweeney has said the best players will play, and for Morrow to develop into the top-four defensemen he was projected as before the 2011 draft, he needs an extended look in the NHL.
“Personally, I feel like you definitely need better players around you to be able to develop to that next level,” Morrow said. “You kind of play up to everyone else around you, I’m sure you’ve heard the term of when a team is not doing so well and they’re kind of highly touted, you play down to the other team’s level.
“I feel it works in the opposing factor, too. If you’re playing with better players around you, you’re eventually going to play up to their level and going to develop a lot more that way. … I firmly believe playing against better players will bring out the best in me.”
Morrow will play with better players in camp and the preseason. It’s up to him to make the most of the opportunity.
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