The last 12 months have been full of change for defenseman Joe Morrow. In the fall, he began his first season in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a trying season for the 2011 first round pick, featuring some major adjustments to his defensive game. Despite some growing pains, Morrow showed flashes of the potential that had him ranked as the #4 prospect in the Penguins organization last year. As the NHL trade deadline approached, the Penguins dealt Morrow to the Dallas Stars for LW Brenden Morrow, who assigned Morrow to the Texas Stars of the AHL. He finished out the season with the Texas Stars, playing some big minutes on their run to the AHL Conference Semi-Finals. In July, he was traded to the Boston Bruins as part of the Tyler Seguin deal, and forced to start fresh with a new team for the third time in the last year.
At the end of last season, Providence’s top two defensemen graduated to the NHL, a loss that would prove to be more than the Baby B’s could handle. Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug played in all situations for Providence last year, meaning that there will be lots of opportunities for their remaining defensemen to step up this year. Enter Joe Morrow. When he was drafted, he was viewed as a strong two-way defenseman. The focus of his first season in the AHL was working on the defensive aspects of his game, an area where he showed noticeable improvement. The next step for Morrow will be blending his improving defense with his offensive talent.
Joe Morrow will enter training camp with the Boston Bruins with extremely slim odds of making the team. He looks primed to be Providence’s top defenseman and the first call up if injuries occur in Boston. As the top defenseman, he will be utilized in all situations, power plays and penalty kills included. Morrow’s biggest impact will be on the power play, as he will share the role of power play quarterback with David Warsofsky. Morrow is dual threat on the power play, featuring a monster shot and elite passing skills. On the penalty kill, Morrow will initially rely on his size and his hockey IQ, although as the year goes on, the hope is that his positioning and strength will become a positive factor. After tallying five goals and 14 assists between his two teams last season, Morrow will look to take a step forward statistically. A realistic window for Morrow’s points total this season would be somewhere in the 30-40 point range. Although Morrow is currently blocked by the Boston Bruins impressive defensive depth, a big season in Providence could go a long way in ensuring his future in Boston.
Joe Morrow is expected to spend the next few seasons in the AHL. This will allow him ample time to develop, while he plays top minutes in Providence. His development will not, in all likelihood, require multiple seasons in the AHL, but without an open roster spot, there will be no need for the organization to rush him. Long-term, Morrow has an outside shot at developing into a number two defenseman in the NHL. Even if he settles into a top four role in the NHL, it seems like a certainty that he will see minutes on the top power play unit. Based on the defensive prospects in the Bruins organization and Morrow’s skill set, it seems very likely that Morrow will not be on the move again any time soon.