Josh Morrissey is a gifted offensive player whose lack of size makes him a risky bet at the NHL level. He's the last of six defenseman ranked inside the top twenty on the consensus list, and he's easily the shortest among that group of six (all numbers come from the measurements taken at the combine with the exception of Darnell Nurse):
A quick comparison with defenders drafted inside the top twenty from 2012 and 2011 shows that there have been other defensemen of Morrissey's size drafted high in the draft, but that he's a fair distance from what's typical of most other highly rated defensemen:
I don't normally flag size as a huge concern, and Morrissey isn't uniquely small, but when you hear things like "often outmuscled for pucks" from Corey Pronman, it makes me nervous, especially when the offense just isn't all that impressive. The two other defensemen listed at less than six feet tall on that list had some pretty incredible offensive numbers. Of the 190 defensemen drafted with one of the first thirty picks from 1983 to 2013, Dumba finished 31st in adjusted points per game (0.85) and 9th in adjusted goals per game (0.30), while Murphy finished 2nd in adjusted points per game (1.22) and 5th in adjusted goals per game (0.38). Unfortunately, neither player is an offensive comparable for Morrissey. You'd hope that the diminutive defender would be the leader in offensive production for this draft, but Ryan Pulock and Seth Jones both outscored Morrissey in the WHL this year.
How much is this lack of offense a concern? Let's take a look at Morrissey's comparables. In this case, a comparable player was someone who played his draft year in the CHL, had an adjusted points per game rate between 0.63 and 0.77 (90% to 110% of Morrissey's offensive production), and was selected somewhere between 9th and 19th overall. A player with similar goal-scoring is highlighted in blue.
Now, keep in mind that these are statistical comparables based on offensive production and draft number. Clearly, Bryan Marchment is not a similar player stylistically. But the two players who are most similar statistically, Beaulieu and Colaiacovo, are. Beaulieu is just beginning his career, but he had a solid first professional season, and Colaiacovo has had a reasonably lengthy NHL career, especially considering all of the injuries he had to deal with early on. In the chart below I've listed each player's number of regular season games, his time on ice per game (if the NHL was recording TOI for more than half of the games he played), his points per game, and the first season he played in at least forty games:
There are a few really solid careers on that list. Both Cote and Morris are smaller players, and both were (are) effective top-four defenders over many seasons. Morrissey clearly has to work on getting stronger (or at least stronger on the puck) in order to be effective in the NHL, but if he can fix that issue, he has the other skills required to play effective up-tempo defense at the NHL level.
Next up tomorrow morning: The Best Offensive Juniors Drafted 11-30
My Draft List:
1 - Nathan MacKinnon (Comparables)
2 - Jonathan Drouin (Comparables)
3 - Seth Jones (Comparables)
4 - Aleksander Barkov (Comparables)
5 - Elias Lindholm (Comparables)
6 - Valeri Nichushkin (Comparables)
7 - Sean Monahan (Comparables)
8 - Rasmus Ristolainen (Comparables)
9 - Darnell Nurse (Comparables)
10 - Hunter Shinkaruk (Comparables)
11 - Ryan Pulock (Comparables)
12 - Nikita Zadorov (Comparables)
13 - Josh Morrissey
14 - Adam Erne (Comparables)