by Lisa McRitchie on 01/21/13 at 02:00 PM ET
Mitch Moroz wasn’t the name fans expected. No, many expected pretty much any name but with the second pick of the second round at the 2013 NHL entry draft. But the Oilers had their man with Nail Yakupov, they missed out on Henrik Samuelsson and didn’t intend to miss out on Mitch Moroz. You see, Tambellini was adamant that he was after character players, and filling needs with all remaining picks of the entry draft. With Moroz, the team took strength, skills and a personality that can at times be larger than life.
While many shun the moustache, Moroz has made it “his thing” and it’s constant presence was the focus of a team video last season with then captain and Buffalo Sabres defencive prospect Mark Pysyk.
“It comes naturally, and it’s kind of my look. I like to stick with it.”
Moroz’s personality will shine if you ask about his injuries, and recovery from them. When asked before Christmas if he was recovered, healthy and ready to go his response was “We can say that I guess, for the record, yes.”
Most players would stick with the standard ‘yes I’m healthy,’ but not Moroz. No, with Moroz you get the comical response, the eyebrow raise and the facial expression you would expect from a joker coming off of a win in Calgary.
While the Oil Kings are having the season they want overall - they are first in the Eastern Conference - it hasn’t been easy. The wins were elusive to start the season, and players were in and out of the infirmary , but things have started to pull together.
The same can be said of Moroz’s personal season; “It’s been up and down. I want to get back to doing things that make me successful. I feel really good and I’m just starting to come on again.”
And now that he's coming on again, perhaps this could be his 20 goal season, "I had 16 (goals) last year, and most of them came in the second half of the year. I’m just starting to come on now, I’ve been a little bit snake bit, so I’m just going to start going in, and when they do, it’s going to open the floodgates."
But if 20 goals is a little out of reach, 20 fights might be a possibility, afterall, that was his total last season including one in the Memorial Cup Tournament. A total that made him the team leader, a title he once again holds this year with 7 to date.
"The fights kind of come when I’m playing that game. Sometimes I’m not looking for that, but something sparks me and the points come from that. Things just seem to start rolling once I get into that groove of fighting and playing physical."
And that physical play is what the Oilers were looking for, afterall the team as of late has not exactly been difficult to play against.
"Anyone who has seen me play knows that my game is not all about points and production. But when I’m effective I’m playing a big physical, power forward game and the points come along with that."
Given time, Moroz could play the role that the Oilers need now. Perhaps with time the Oilers will be able to mold current players into the physical players they need now, and so perhaps Moroz will move in to complement the roster. The team will be in real trouble if they are relying on Moroz to fill the need, as he is likely another couple/few years away.
At least playing for the Oil Kings, in the same building as the Oilers, and especially during the lockout, the Oilers' prospects had significant time with the Oilers' training staff and player development personnel. You might wonder if the pressure might be too much, but Moroz will assure you that it's just right.
"They don’t want to be breathing down my neck, they don’t want to put that kind of pressure on me but they’ve been lots of help. They have a great development program for me, those guys are there to walk me through things, and when they do I’m all ears.
"They have a great pipeline from their office to ours (the Oil Kings), and they knew me better than anyone else going into the draft and that’s why they picked me, so it’s a great relationship for sure."
Moroz isn't the most prolific of goal scorers, but given the right line mates, we may see that change. Where Moroz shines is in his physical play, and his ability to make his team hard to play against, each and every shift. Moroz knows this, he is focussing on what it will take to make the next steps, and this is why Moroz has a bright future ahead of him.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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