Something the Calgary Flames have had success with as of late has been undrafted players. By scouring through the ranks and finding guys that simply, for whatever reason, have been completely passed over by everyone, you can really add to your team and prospect depth.
An example in a college player would be Josh Jooris; an example in a defenceman would be Mark Giordano. An example in a college defenceman would be Alberta boy Kenney Morrison, who performed decently enough through three seasons of school - just like Jooris - before biting the bullet, saying goodbye to his NCAA eligibility, and signing with the Flames.
The 6'2, 210 lbs. defender has the size to be an NHLer, and the skating ability to match. He's got a cannon of a shot from the backend, and the mobility to make good use of it to jump up into the play, or get back if things go wrong. His rookie professional season will be upon us this year, and then, we'll be able to see what he can really do.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 team||Vote total|
|18||Kenney Morrison||02/13/92||undrafted||Western Michigan Universtiy (NCAA), Adirondack Flames (AHL)||67|
From the Alberta side of Llyodminster, Morrison was first brought up through the Alberta junior hockey systems. He failed to reach the CHL, and considering how in his draft year, he was primarily playing in the AMHL, was completely skipped over in the NHL draft. From there, he jumped over to the BCHL, and then the USHL, before finally heading off to the NCAA.
Morrison was among his teams' best scoring defencemen - leading his BCHL Bulldogs and second for his USHL Lancers - and that immediately carried over to Western Michigan University. A freshman at age 20, he was his team's third highest scorer, and highest scoring defenceman. The Broncos were third in the CCHA conference that season, but failed to make the NCAA playoffs.
While Morrison's offence dropped off just a touch in his sophomore year, he remained the Broncos' top scoring defenceman, and overall sixth highest scorer. The Broncos failed to have any real notoriety throughout the overall NCAA standings, however, and once again did not participate in the overall playoffs.
Before he reached his junior year, Morrison had participated in a development camps, with the Edmonton Oilers, the team he very sadly grew up cheering for. He never signed a contract with them, proving there is hope for us all yet, and so, attended his third - and final - year of college.
Come Morrison's junior year, he had built up a reputation of being one of the most sought-after free agent college defencemen. His further drop in offensive production (not to mention being outscored by teammate and fellow defender, Christopher Dienes - an invite to the Flames' own development camp - for the first time since playing in the USHL) did nothing to stop that. Western Michigan once again failed to make noise, and Morrison decided he was ready to go pro, so he signed with the Flames.
Signing a tryout deal so his NHL contract would not yet kick in, Morrison got in 10 games with the Adirondack Flames, and continued to prove he could score at that level. Up next: his first full professional season.
Strengths and weaknesses
There's a lot to like about Morrison. He's got the size to be in the NHL, and he's physical enough to use it. It's not just that, though: he can skate, too. He's fast, he's mobile, he can jump up into the play and get back in his own end. He's been compared to Detroit Red Wings defenceman Danny DeKeyser, and not just because they're both Western Michigan alumni.
A little more on one of those points: Morrison can jump up into the play. Not only that, but he's excellent at getting pucks on net, as his defensive scoring can attest to. And it's not even just that, but there's one other key part of Morrison's skill set: he has an absolute hell of a shot, making him lethal on the powerplay.
The only real downsides to Morrison seems to be the fact that he appears to be a late bloomer. After all, he never made the CHL, and he was undrafted. When he went to college, he went to a team not so much known for its prowess amongst the NCAA. He was one of the top players on his team, but it looks like it was in part a case of being a big fish in a little pond - and he's upgrading to a bigger pond, now.
Future with the Flames
Morrison is someone who certainly seems well-rounded enough to have top four potential. The Flames are no stranger to having undrafted top four defencemen, after all, and if Morrison can follow in those footsteps, that would be a best case scenario. As it stands right now, though, we know he can score at just about any level he plays at - though we'll need to see him more in the AHL, for sure - and his skating is a strong, strong asset that could see him be a regular professional in Calgary.
The Flames' defence prospect pool has gotten even deeper since acquiring Morrison, so it'll be a battle to make it: a battle he has the potential to win, and one that shows he'll have truly earned his spot, if that's what happens. Morrison absolutely has a future with this organization.
Expectations for 2015-16
Play a full season in the AHL - barring the possibility of being called up should enough injuries strike the NHL team. While in the minors, hope he can establish himself as one of the team's go-to top four guys, and help lead the charge from the backend. Considering his shot, it seems likely he'll end up a regular on the team's powerplay. If he can score from both there and at even strength, then the Flames could really have their next two-way defender on their hands.