by Lisa Brown on 07/03/12 at 12:00 PM ET
“We done good” the Oilers’ second round pick Mitch Moroz said of his Oil Kings team at this year’s NHL entry draft. Three of the top 32 players selected were from the WHL champion Oil Kings team, and Griffin Reinhart being picked at #4 set a new team record.
But as happy as Moroz can be for his teammates, he was at a loss for words to describe his delight at being selected 32nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s pretty special, I mean it’s a dream come true for me and I couldn’t be happier honestly. I don’t know what to think, it’s kind of unbelievable” Moroz spoke with the grin that we so typically see on the faces of the newly drafted youngsters. But even better than being drafted, Moroz learns that he may get to stay in Edmonton.
Moroz was a big part of the Oil Kings’ WHL title and Memorial Cup win with 19 regular season fights, and only 1 in through the Memorial Cup run. And that is only a small taste of why the Oilers like him.
“I’m a big power forward and I think that that’s an area that they needed to improve so I’m hoping to address that. I’m just going to play my big game and do what’s best for the team. “
That was indeed a need for the Oilers going into this year’s draft. Tambellini knew that he had a lot of talent coming up through the pipe, but he now needs to worry about keeping them healthy throughout the season so that if they make it to the post season they will be able to take the physical challenges that it brings. For Moroz, that physical game is his biggest asset and something that he’s ready to continue with. “It’s always been fun for me and I’ve always played my game that way; it’s the only way that I know how to play and the only way that I’m going to play moving forward. It makes me the big power forward that I am.”
In order to make the next step, Moroz will need to continue to improve. Although the Oilers may add another 18 year old to their next season’s roster, his last name is most likely Yakupov. But playing in Edmonton for another season just means that the Oilers will be there watching and helping him with his every step “They’re going to be there every game watching you so that gives you that much more incentive to do well and to perform every day, every game, and every practise. Just being in that rink and knowing the history in there, it’s something neat. “
For current Oil Kings and Oiler prospects, the proximity usually also means added communication from the Oilers head coaches, something that only helps with their game and may just help the team reach the Memorial Cup once again next season.
With 16 goals and 25 points in 66 regular season games and 4 points and 4 assists in the post season, the Oilers don’t see Moroz as another natural scoring gem. But maybe helping to add some size and protection to a line will be enough.
“I’d like to continue moving forward and become a more rounded player” Moroz says of his future development. “I know that I have established myself early, but I know that Edmonton will want me to be more well rounded and work on my offence and defence. Just continuing to adapt from my physical size and working on my more well rounded play.”
Oilers’ head of amateur scouting sees Moroz as having a good chance of beating the odds an one day making it. Otherwise they would not have taken Moroz so early in the second round. “You always have to step up if there’s a player that you like. We liked him, we’ve followed him and his development curve is on its way up. And he provides some, not just toughness. but he’s a good hockey player. He takes the puck to the net real hard, he shows a little bit of touch around the net. He’s only played one year of junior and I think that he’s got an opportunity with continuous development and drive, he’s got a good chance to be a good player for us.”
Moroz was of course shocked that he was selected so early himself but easily understood the situation. “You get into the second and later on rounds and anything can happen and if a team likes you and they’re not sure they’re going to get you with their next pick, then they’re going to take you. And that seemed to be the case.”
The addition of Moroz also means the addition of another player that grew up as an Oiler fan. Moroz was born in Edmonton although he grew up in Calgary, but his mom raised him right on a healthy diet of Oilers games. And so for Moroz, like players such as Tyler Bunz, getting drafted by your childhood favourite team is a dream come true. And you have to wonder if this factors in with the Oilers when they do their interviews, as part of their character assessment. After all, you might expect a player to play their best hockey when they are playing for heart. Just look at Ryan Smyth who was also drafted by his childhood favourite team. He may have played for other teams throughout his career to this point, but arguably his best hockey has been played as an Oiler.
Like Griffin Reinhart and Henrik Samuelsson, Moroz has not had the luxury of a long off season to prepare for development camp, but he has fared well. In this case exhilaration and excitement can carry a man far. At the Oilers’ development camp, Moroz has been learning not only hockey drills and skills, but also life skills including meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking along with other Oilers’ prospects.
Moroz does seem to spend the greater portion of his time on ice, directly on the ice and not necessarily on his skates, but this is often due to the hits that he throws or at least tries to throw. Standing at 6’2” and 208lbs, Moroz doesn’t always make his targets, but some of those smaller skaters are just that much faster. This will be something that Moroz will have to watch out for if he wants to transition his game to the next level.
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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.
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