By: Jeff Spiegel
From the pastures of Sherwood Park, Alberta, self-described ‘farm boy’ Joe Morrow is hoping to achieve the family dream of playing in the NHL.
Morrow’s father, Dave was a member of the original Winterhawks team that moved to Portland from Edmonton in 1976, where he was a fourth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks. Joe’s brother Josh, also played in the Western Hockey League from 1998-2004 for a number of different teams before being drafted by the Nashville Predators.
However, neither made it to the NHL, something Morrow seems poised to do, as he’s considered one of the top draft-eligible defenseman, projected to be off the board in the early rounds.
“It’s interesting to know that people talk about you and talk about what you do on the ice, and it’s exciting to see where it could go from here, but the fact that I’m actually on the radar is a great opportunity for me,” Morrow said.
Growing up on a farm with his parents and grandparents, Morrow developed a unique blend of speed and strength that have NHL scouts drooling over the defenseman.
“It’s amazing how strong he is. He has so much power in his legs and upper body, and his leg strength is a big part of his explosive skating as well as his big shot,” Winterhawks Director of Hockey Operations Matt Bardsley said.
It’s that shot and skating ability that has also placed Morrow among the highest scoring Winterhawks’ defensemen in recent history.
On the season, Morrow notched 49 points with 40 assists and nine goals, tops among the team’s defensemen and the most by a Portland blueliner in a decade. While those assists come primarily from his ability to make a great first pass up the ice, his impressive slapshot also creates plenty of rebound opportunities for his teammates.
“I like to bring an offensive aspect to the game, even as a defenseman because it’s fun to jump in the rush and makes the game a bit more exciting, but I know that defense is still my main responsibility,” Morrow said.
Fortunately for the Winterhawks he isn’t too shabby on defense either. His “farm boy” strength and toughness allow Morrow to play an aggressive style of defense that helps him to force players off the puck.
“It helps because I’m not a typical little city boy that some of these guys are, because living on a farm gives me a little bit of an edge to be stronger and bigger than everyone else,” Morrow said.
While much of that strength has been developed in the weight room, strength and conditioning coach Rich Campbell insists a good portion of it comes naturally.
Campbell recounted a story from last season when the players did a grip-test, which measures the hand and forearm strength of players. As a 16-year-old, Morrow completed 190 pounds of resistance “easily”, said Campbell, a total no other player on the team could match. In fact, Campbell noted that the average player can complete about 150 pounds of resistance.
While this strength will definitely bode well for Morrow at the upcoming draft fitness test, he understands that his play on the ice remains the most critical factor affecting his stock.
“My goal is to take this team as far as we can in playoffs, and I’m going to do everything in my power to help, knowing that it will probably help out the draft status as well,” he said.