For many out there, what exactly the Stars received in Joe Morrow is not exactly known. The Stars were going to be looking for young defensemen with some of these trades we're expecting moving forward, and the Stars received one in the 20-year old defenseman, a 2011 first round pick who comes highly regarded -- with some caveats.
Morrow is a 6-1, 204 pound left-shot defenseman who played five seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL before making his pro debut this season in the AHL. His best skills come in his skating ability with good passing and a heck of a shot from the point -- he's touted as having one of the harder shots among the top defensive prospects in hockey. He possesses decent size for his age but has struggled with the defensive side of the game at the pro level, getting some healthy scratches earlier this season to figure things out.
As always, in matters related to the Pittsburgh Penguins, we turn to Hooks Orpik of Pensburgh for an insider's take on the trade:
As far as Joe Morrow- very highly regarded player, just turned 20 years old in December and already physically able to play in the AHL. He was a late cut from NHL training camp fall of 2011, I don't think he was a real shot to make the roster, but they wanted more time to teach, help and practice him with NHL caliber players.
Very "toolsy" type of player- excellent skater, great with the puck. Plus speed, acceleration, can and probably will run a power play. Has great shot. Is likely to make you go "wow" with his abilities.
Concerns: Defensive development. The Pens used phrases like "rebuild his defensive game" and made Morrow a healthy scratch this year, at times, in the AHL. He's got to learn how to refine his technique defensively at the professional level against the big, strong forwards that play in the pros. He's never going to be a high shot-blocker or good PK'er, his strength is with the puck on his blade, not when it's on the other guy's.
If I had to make a comparison, I'd probably say Morrow sounds like a 20 year old version of a better skating Sheldon Souray at this point, with the potential to improve that.
Either way, I think he's likely to be a Top 4 defensemen in the league for a long time who adds a lot on the PP.
The "toolsy" part is something you're going to hear a lot of with regards to Morrow; he's one of those players with all of the physical tools to be something truly special and just needs some time to put it all together at this early point in his career. I don't know about the Souray comparison, outside of the offensive upside, since Morrow isn't exactly the type to set the law around the crease.
But he's a puck mover with a great shot, something the Stars need in the system. That he's 20 years old and won't have pressure to produce right away is also a good thing; we have to remember that defensemen take longer than forwards to truly develop.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectusalso has some thoughts on the trade up and offers his take on Morrow as a prospect for Dallas:
Joe Morrow was a first round pick by Pittsburgh in 2011, selected 23rd overall. He was a dynamic player in the WHL in 2010-11 and 2011-12, being named a first team All Star in 2011-12. Morrow's strength is his offensive game; he is a high-end skater and puck-mover with a bomb of a shot. He has all the tools to be a top three defenseman, and if he were to truly hit his peak, a top pairing defenseman. At this time last year, I would have said that such a projection would have above-average risk attached to it, and this season is evidence why. Morrow has 15 points in 57 AHL games in his rookie pro season, not exactly typical numbers for a stud offensive defenseman. He has struggled with the physical and defensive aspects of the game to the point where his ice time is not that high. He hasn't received penalty killing time or any tough defensive minutes.
Even with his struggles in mind, he is still a top 100 prospect in hockey, but once the new draft class comes in, it will be in the 60-100 range as opposed to the #35 ranking I gave him this summer. He becomes one of Dallas' best prospects along with winger Brett Ritchie and center Radek Faksa. With how well young defensemen Jamieson Oleksiak and Brenden Dillon have looked in the pro ranks, Dallas can afford to be patient with Morrow and let him work out the kinks in his game.
Joe Nieuwendyk stated that Morrow could potentially play with the Stars on Friday night, so Dallas fans could see him much sooner than some might have otherwise expected.