by Lisa McRitchie on 10/28/13 at 11:58 PM ET
The Edmonton Oilers are still struggling to find their identity as a team and they are still looking for their missing pieces. While some of those missing pieces may just have to come through trades, others could already be in the system. A glaring need for the team right now are power forwards, forwards who can play the puck, score goals and stand up to anyone else on the ice. While the Oilers brass and fans are looking to the trade market, and other teams for the ideal fit player, the team is also working to develop their own fixes. One of the possibilities for the team is Mitch Moroz, currently with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
This has been Mitch Moroz’s season. With 12 goals and 18 points through 16 games, Moroz is closing in on last year’s 13 goals and 34 points. Fast. In fact Moroz is only 5 goals and 16 points away from a career year with most of the season left to play.
Moroz, ever the good teammate attributes his success to his line mates. “I’m playing with a stud over there with Curtis (Lazar) so I’m getting lots of opportunities and into those positions to score, and I’m just making the most of it.”
Of course it takes more than just talented line mates, you have to have the skills yourself to score at any level. And although it’s been said before, if you can’t score at the WHL level, you can’t be expected to be a big time goal scorer at any higher level, just like that.
Last season, and even the season before that, Moroz didn’t see why he couldn’t get 20 gaols. This season, he’s set the bar a little higher. “We’ll see what happens. I wrote on my goal sheet at the start of the year that I wanted 30 plus, so we’ll see. I’m going to just keep shooting the puck, good things happen when you do that.
“I said 20 plus assists, just because I’m usually not the guy to pull up and make a play but he’s going to burry when I give him the puck, but the same with [Reid] Petryk and Sammy [Henrik Samuelsson] when I play with those guys. They’re all gifted offensively so the points will come. I know that it has been a point of mine not to be just focussed on that though, I’ve still got to play a rounded game because at the next level it’s going to be called from me to play a rounded game.”
Goals and assists are not what Moroz has been known for to this point however, Moroz has long been seen as a hard hitting agitator, a player that will hold the opposition accountable and who always seems to be right in the mix of things.
Moroz may be known for his fists in some circles, but that isn’t really something that he looks to do any given night, it just kind of happens. As such, he doesn’t set out to get a certain number of fights on his dance card by the end of the season. “I didn’t really set a goal on that, but it’s part of the way that I play and any time that you throw your body around, you’re going to have to answer for that and sometimes and when you have to stand up for teammates just like I already have this year.” To date, Moroz has 5 fights this season, the one that is16 games old.
Because Moroz plays such a physical and hard hitting he is very aware of the conversations being had any given night on any given TSN panel. People are once again talking about fighting and it’s place in the game.
“It’s frustrating to see that it’s even a discussion. You look at what happened earlier in the year with Curtis, a hard cross check and I jump in there and then the linesmen right away but he [Tyler Hart of the Prince Albert Raiders] gets three games and if I’m not there to do things, then people just take suspensions and think that that’s enough. But I think that the message is a little clearer when a guy steps up and answers for his teammates. It’s just frustrating. People just don’t understand the culture of the game who want it out. It’s just a part of the game and it’s a non-issue for me.
"Obviously the role of the enforcer per se is kind of diminishing, but for players like myself who need to play that big game, and be hard on guys, it comes with the territory. So if you take that out of the game, you are going to see a lot more cheap shots and things like that."
Given that the Oilers’ physical team needs haven’t changed much from last year, you can bet that there will continue to be a spotlight on Mitch Moroz. And yes, that is something that he has noticed. “Last year I think that I worried about that too much. I just wanted to make everybody happy and like me but you can’t worry about the opinions of people who don’t have a lot of insight into the game and stuff. I mean I try not to worry about it as much.” With 12 goals and 5 fights, and countless hits on the record book, and counting Moroz doesn’t need to worry so much about people not liking him or his game; he is well on his way.
Moroz has only improved his personal game from last season, and this is only made more impressive by the fact that he underwent knee surgery in July, and his team has seen a large number of key players graduate. “We lost some key guys, but we still have a core group hanging around and we brought in some young guys who work hard every day and put in the effort in practise and games and that will go a long way down the stretch. They are going to have to feed off of some of the older guys, and we’ll take them under our wings per se and I think that we’ll be fine. We’ve come a long way since the start of the year and things are starting to click now.”
The Oil Kings are currently 4th in the WHL Eastern Conference and Moroz’s 18 points put him 21st in the WHL but his 49 penalty minutes are head and shoulders above any other goal scorer. Moroz is having a season to watch, and we can’t help but do just that; watch with awe.
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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.
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