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Carolina Hurricanes 2021 Draft Profile: Scott Morrow

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Morrow has the potential to become a top four offensive defenseman at the NHL level if he develops properly at UMass and in the AHL.

USA-Blue v Finland Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Over the course of the offseason, I’ll be taking a look at some of the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class. Not ever player will be profiled since there isn’t a lot of film on some of them, but I’ll be doing my best to bring you information regarding the Hurricanes’ newest group of prospects. First up is Scott Morrow, who was selected 40th overall by the Hurricanes.

In these profiles, I’ll break down a player’s game on the offensive and defensive side of the puck, break down what stands out in a good or bad way, and talk about certain qualities that might lead to NHL success. I’ll be using game film to study each player’s game and get an accurate depiction of where they’re at in their development, what they can improve upon and where they stand above the rest.

Offense

Morrow wants to be involved offensively, that much is clear. Shattuck St. Mary’s’ offense ran through Morrow, and when you watch his game, it’s not hard to see why. His speed, stickhandling and elite hockey sense allowed for Morrow to dominate play in the offensive zone and wreak havoc for opposing players. Morrow sees the ice at an elite level and can thread passes through multiple defenders, making him a puck-moving threat if he is given any amount of open ice to work with. The term “puck moving defenseman” doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence in Hurricanes fans because the first person that comes to mind is Ryan Murphy. Morrow isn’t like Murphy. I love Morrow’s hockey sense and it’s probably his best asset, followed closely by his skating. Morrow’s ability to anticipate the play and react to a change in position or a mistake by an opponent is what makes him so dangerous. All it takes is one small mistake or one missed coverage and Morrow can make you pay.

While he doesn’t use his shot as often as I’d like, it’s clear that Morrow has a good shot that is close to NHL ready. I see him using his shot as a passing option as well, where a forward will take advantage of the rebound and put the puck in the net off of Morrow’s shot. Little plays like that stand out because you’re able to see that Morrow is looking for every possible way to create offense. I noticed that Morrow had a good amount of secondary assists. Not all secondary assists are worth much, but a lot of Morrow’s involved him starting a zone entry, taking the puck and moving it off the faceoff or starting a zone entry with a nice exit pass out of his own end. Again, his vision comes into play here. Morrow makes some fantastic stretch passes and is one of the better defensemen I’ve seen at making those plays happen on a consistent basis.

Morrow is rightly billed as an offensive defenseman. It’s one thing to be able to do this at the high school level, but he needed to show me that he was capable of holding his own against better competition to convince me of his upside. I got to see that upside at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Take a look at this clip.

Defensemen that can carry the puck through the neutral zone, have a clean zone entry and manage to generate a quality scoring chance all at once are a rare breed. This type of thing might not happen at the NHL level, but if Morrow has the confidence to make these plays happen now, you can help to translate that to the NHL. Again, his shot isn’t utilized often but there’s some power behind it.

Skating and Stickhandling

Morrow’s skating deserves its own section, but I’m putting it together with his stickhandling since he excels at pulling off dekes at top speed. The above referenced clip is one good example. Morrow skates well for a 6-foot-2 skater and has a high top speed for a defenseman his age. The smooth, powerful stride and above average acceleration make Morrow a legitimate threat in transition. I’d call his style of play disruptive in transition because he can throw off an opponent due to his confidence with the puck on his stick. Take a look at this clip, where you can see Morrow freeze up the Swedish defenders.

Morrow’s puck carrying abilities take over here, dangling past not one but two defenders and nearly deking past the goalie in tight. This play doesn’t result in a goal but it’s another example of just how good Morrow can be with the puck on his stick. This was at the end of a minute-long shift, too, and he was able to make a similar play happen later on in the period. Seeing Morrow pull these types of plays off against some of the best U20 skaters in the world fills me with more confidence than seeing him do the same against high school players. It’s nice to see that his style of play can work against better competition.

Defense

Morrow leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive side of things and will need to reinvent his game in the defensive zone before turning pro. That may sound harsh, but the fact of the matter is as long as Rod Brind’Amour is the coach of this team, then Morrow’s defensive play won’t fly.

He can be passive and gets caught flat-footed a lot of the time, meaning he’ll have to scramble to make a play or will lose his man altogether. He doesn’t use his strength nearly enough and I rarely saw any sort of physicality from him. I’m not expecting Morrow to ever be a physical player, but you have to box out forwards and prevent them from establishing a net-front presence at the NHL level. In order to do that, you have to be stronger and willing to assert yourself. Some of that could be immaturity and the fact that Morrow hasn’t had to do anything like that in high school, so I’m willing to wait a year to see if that’s the case. Like I said, I’d almost consider Morrow to be a passive player in the defensive zone and his defensive coverage can look lazy at times. I don’t think that he’s a lazy player, it’s just that he isn’t nearly as confident in his defensive abilities just yet.

That’ll come, though. I did see flashes of play that were encouraging. Morrow’s hockey sense allows for him to anticipate a pass, which means that Morrow can take the puck and start a breakout. He was able to do that on occasion at the Summer Showcase and there were a few puck battles that I liked as well. He’s certainly not light and stands at 192 pounds currently, so he could be better along the boards. Morrow will always lean more towards the offensive side of the puck due to how he plays, but if he can improve defensively, he’ll be trusted with more ice time at every level.

Other Strengths and Weaknesses

Morrow’s skating frustrates opponents and he draws a lot of tripping penalties. It takes an opposing player by surprise and forces them to take a stupid penalty, which means they now have to deal with power-play quarterback Scott Morrow. That’s a legitimate threat for a lot of defenses. I thought that Morrow’s gap control was good and his skating allowed for him to close gaps quicker than some other defensemen his age. He’ll need to work on what to do after he closes the gap, but that’s something you can help him with. I wouldn’t call Morrow’s play with the puck selfish, but I would like to see him pass a little sooner on occasion. I love the plays that I included earlier, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to pull that sort of thing off in the NHL. There’s no shame in making a pass after the zone entry and then setting yourself up to sustain the offensive pressure.

Summary

All in all, it’s easy to see why the Hurricanes were so high on Morrow. He possesses high-end skill in the offensive zone and could be a top four defenseman capable of 40+ points at the NHL level. His defensive play needs a lot of work, but you can help him develop in that area. Morrow’s skating, stickhandling, and hockey sense are close to NHL ready already, so building around those assets should turn him into a top prospect. Morrow’s NHL ETA is 2025, or four years after he was drafted. I don’t believe that he will need all four years in college before turning pro, but I do believe that he’ll need at least one season in the AHL after leaving college before becoming an NHL regular.

Morrow’s game can translate to the NHL. He’ll have to make some improvements and fine-tune his offensive approach, but there’s a lot to like about his overall game. He can walk the line, play up on the rush, and is an absolute force in transition. I hate comparing prospects to other NHL players most of the time because no two players are the same. Sure, Morrow is as good of a stretch passer as Gardiner and as good in transition as a player like Spurgeon, but he’s his own player. Morrow could be a possible steal for the Hurricanes at 40th overall in a few years given how he plays.