The Stars acquired defenseman Joe Morrow and a fifth round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in return for long term Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow and a third round pick. The move marks an end of an era in the Stars organisation and a real sign that a watershed moment has truly been reached.
The Dallas Stars are focusing on the future and Joe Morrow could potentially be a big part of that future. On Sunday evening Brandon produced a scouting report on the newest member of the Dallas Stars organisation and Jeff Angus earlier today wrote about what the Stars have with Joe Morrow. Its clear that he is a talented player with high end potential but he also brings something to the organisation that has been lacking within their prospect pool.
During my time analysing the Stars organisational needs for the upcoming draft its become clear that the Stars have very few highly talented offensive minded defenseman with a good chance of reaching the NHL. The obvious one that springs to mind is Swedish defenseman Ludwig Bystrom and he is several years from reaching the NHL if he is going to. The Stars needed more offensively minded defenseman in order to make sure they had a large enough pool that it becomes statistically more likely that at least one would make an impact on the NHL level. Joe Morrow helps meet this need though I believe the Stars will attempt to draft/sign as free agents several this year.
Joe Morrow was drafted 23rd overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, the same draft class as Jamie Oleksiak was drafted, and he had spent 4 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. He, like Oleksiak, joined the AHL at the beginning of the season with Morrow playing for the Penguins affliate, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Though Morrow has had difficulties adapting to the professional game, in particular suffering from a slow start to the season and several healthy scratches, its not completely unexpected for a young player, especially for an offensive defenseman. He is still young, only 20, and has time to adjust to the professional game. While I understand the Stars wanting to trial for a place in the big team, it certainly has made him eager and motivated at the beginning of his Star's career, I think there is a lot to gain by letting him adjust with the Texas Stars for the rest of the season.
What Joe Morrow brings to the table are the skills to be a high end powerplay quarterback. He has excellent hockey sense, is very mobile and has an excellent shot. These facets of his game are highly developed, though he has had trouble adjusting them to the professional game. The Stars don't really have another prospect with that kind of skill set and in reality they would prefer to have more. Though Oleksiak has a booming shot when he winds up, Joe Morrow has another set of skills which give him the potential to be a top powerplay defenseman in the league. The Stars needed one of these prospects in the pipeline and one that can be called upon soon to play at the NHL level and they have the potential for that in Joe Morrow.
While his offensive game and talents are high end he, like many young offensive defensemen, has had trouble within his own zone. While its not uncommon for this to occur the Stars will really hope that these issues can be ironed out so that Joe Morrow becomes a more rounded and better two way player instead of just a one dimensional offensive defenseman. If he does develop his defensive game to anywhere near his offensive one he could become a very special player for the Dallas Stars, potentially a top three defenseman for years to come.
Its important to be cautious when it comes to predicting where prospects will end up and whether they will ever reach the heights hoped of them. The Stars have seen defensive prospects fail to live up to expectations, just look at Matt Niskanen's time and reputation in Dallas and among Dallas Stars fans. Joe Morrow has the potential to be good, at the same kind of level as Jamie Oleksiak, but must work on his defensive game to become a truly great player. While it might be slightly concerning that the Penguins were willing to trade him for Brenden Morrow (In essense have they done a Ivan Vishnevskiy for Kari Lehtonen to us) it appears that the Stars delibrately targeted Joe Morrow. Their WHL scouts have done well identifying talent coming out of that league so hopefully there will be no unexpected surprises or pitfalls in his development over the next couple of years.
Joe Morrow brings the Dallas Stars organisation a young defenseman with the potential to become a powerplay quarterback at the NHL level and be a top pairing defenseman. He is not far away from the NHL, he only just missed making the Penguins out of training camp, and was assessed to see whether he plays with the Dallas Stars this week, he was however assigned to the Texas Stars. This trade addressed a need within the prospect pool for a powerplay specialist with the raw talent to become a well rounded two way defenseman.