Pens Go “D” in 1st round
The Pittsburgh Penguins bypassed several forwards and took puck moving defenseman Joe Morrow (Portland, WHL) with the No. 23 selection.
The selection may seem like a head scratcher from the Penguins in that there were several intriguing forwards available but the Penguins stick to their philosophy of taking the best player on their board as the team also see’s trade value down the road in first rounders.
Morrow led all Portland defensemen this past season with 49 points (9G-40A) and six power-play goals in 60 games. During the postseason he placed second among all WHL blueliners with 20 points (6G-14A) in 21 games while helping the Winterhawks reach the WHL final.
Morrow, who stands 6-foot, 197 pounds, has spent the previous three-plus seasons with Portland, notching 87 points (16G-71A) in 165 games.
The Penguins are a franchise that values puck moving defenseman extremely high and believe they are a rarity.
An swift smooth skater, Morrow is regarded as one of the best skaters in the draft. He has good vision and has typical traits of puck moving defenseman.
Projects as a player who could be a major asset on the power play due to his puck moving ability and a hard shot.
His weaknesses: Has sense issues in the defensive zone, doesn’t always make the right decisions and reads. Will need to learn to pick his spots offensively according to a scouting report from TSN’s Grant McCagg.
Morrow projects by many scouts as a No. 4 defenseman with the upside to develop into a No. 3 defenseman. He is regarded as being at least 3 or 4 years away.
Morrow has some Alex Goligoski qualities in the puck moving department but possesses a much harder shot and plays with a much more physical edge than Goligoski.
The Penguins feel he’s going to be a two-way defenseman at the NHL level who can put up 40 to 50 points.
Morrow joins a deep group of defensemen in the Penguins system.
The group is headlined by top prospect Simon Despres, 2009 2nd round pick Philip Samuelsson, 2007 3rd round pick Robert Bortuzzo and 2006 3rd round pick Brian Strait.
The Penguins are stockpiling significant trade assets on the blueline at the NHL level and in the system.
Notes: *The Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs were involved in some discussions leading up to the Penguins picking at No. 23. The Leafs ended up moving ahead of the Penguins at No. 22 and selected right winger Tyler Biggs with the No. 22 selection.
Biggs was believed to be extremely high on the Penguins radar
*GM Ray Shero did not have any talks today with Petr Svoboda, the agent for Jaromir Jagr. As of today, Svoboda wasn’t in Minnesota.
*JT Miller was selected No. 15 overall by the New York Rangers. The Penguins passed on Brandon Saad as did several other teams today.