The writers here at the Copper & Blue don't think too highly of Oil Kings forward Mitch Moroz as a prospect. When he was drafted it was called it a reach. Looking back at the draft in the days that followed the pick didn't look a lot better. There have been complaints about his offence. And he wasn't any where close to breaking into the Top 25 in our most recent edition of the Top 25 Under 25.
Because of a knee injury we didn't get to see him play during the rookie camp, and then he skated in just one preseason game, scoring a goal, before being sent back to junior. We didn't know it at the time, but that lone goal might have been a sign because since returning to the Oil Kings Moroz has been on fire scoring 12 goals and adding 5 assists in 13 games for Edmonton. He's also raking up penalties minutes at a good clip too, with 42 already this season.
What is going on here? Is this the real thing or just a hot streak that will end as quickly as it began?
Given that he's already halfway to his career high in points, you have to think that this is more of a blip than a sign of things to come. But the Oil Kings were a very good team during the last two seasons - they won the WHL in 2012 and were knocked out in the final in 2013 - so there is chance that Moroz's numbers didn't really reflect his skill since there were so many talented players above him in the lineup.
The first thing I noticed when digging into the numbers is that only one of Moroz's goals this season has come on the powerplay. It would be easy to dismiss a stretch like this if he was scoring almost exclusively with the man advantage, but seeing him put up numbers like this at even strength is certainly an encouraging sign. As is the consistency with which he's scoring goals. Moroz has goals in 9 of 13 games this season and only has two multiple goal games, this isn't a case of a couple of good nights early in the season skewing the numbers in his favour.
Consistent even strength production, there is nothing wrong with that. The answer to the "Is this for real" question can probably be found a little deeper in the score sheets though. Unfortunately the WHL doesn't doesn't track individual time on ice (or shots on goal for that matter) so we don't know exactly who Moroz is skating with night in and night out, but we can make an educated guess based on who else is on the ice when goals are scored.
So far this season Moroz has been on the ice for 34 even strength goals. Of those 34, Henrik Samuelsson has been on the ice with Moroz for 14, Curtis Lazar 15, both have been on the ice with Moroz 4 times, and just 1 (less than 3%) has been scored with neither Samuelsson or Lazar on the ice. Based on those numbers it seems to me that Moroz is getting significant playing time with the Oil Kings two best centres. This matches with what I've read and seen this season.
It's great that Moroz is getting a chance to play with some very skilled players and that he is making the most of that chance but I very much doubt that he's the one tilting the ice during his shifts. I've seen these three guys play a lot of hockey and Moroz is a couple giant steps behind Samuelsson and Lazar when it comes to playing the game. So no, I don't think we've been completely wrong about Moroz all along. It's a great start but until I see some more evidence I'm going to say it's just a hot streak. Good for him though, if he keeps this up he's going to guarantee himself a pro contract.