The Edmonton Oilers have a tough and gritty power forward waiting in the wings and he's a big fan of the team that drafted him 32nd overall in 2012.
Mitch Moroz, a 19-year-old, six-foot-three and 214-pound winger is your prototypical power forward. He plays a gritty, physical game that opposing teams loathe to play against, and he chips in offensively.
"That's pretty fair to say," said Moroz. "I've always been a bigger guy growing up and always liked to throw my body around. But I also like to score goals and now you move into the Junior and Pro ranks and the fighting kind of comes along with it. It all stems from a power forward game for sure."
The Oilers prospect has not shied away from making the sacrifice to be a protector of his teammates. He's not afraid to mix it up with opponents who take liberties. It's a facet of his game that he learned when he was 17 years old and since then, he has racked up over 130 penalty minutes in each of the previous two seasons.
"A couple of my fights this year have been a result of cheap shots or a bad hit and it is just a part of the way I play. It's just instinct. It's just automatic when something like that happens, to just jump in there and want to defend your guys."
However, who doesn't like to score goals? Moroz has made a habit of it this season and he's seeing some of his best point production of his WHL career with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
In just 16 games this season, Moroz has scored 12 goals and added six assists. His goal production is just one shy of his 2012-13 mark in which he lit the lamp 13 times in 69 games. It's safe to say he's off to a great start. But what has been the reason for his recent scoring success?
"A lot of different opportunity for myself. I'm playing in all situations and I'm playing with top guys. That's it and I've had a little more confidence in my game and I'm going to the hard areas, I'm shooting the puck a lot. So it's just a combination of things. I think, just a fresh year and I'm coming off a year where I was still more of a role player for the team when we had such a deep group of forwards. It's all opportunity, I'm just trying to make the most of it."
As Moroz continues to grow into his game, it becomes more of a challenge to balance his physicality and grit with an offensive mindset. Do you settle into a fighter or a protector role? Or do you continue to develop offensive skills that will pay dividends on the scoreboard? It is a challenge that the young forward has met head on.
"It is tough. It is hard to find a balance sometimes but I think when you're going to the hard areas and you're going to the net and trying to pot those gritty goals, things start to open up for you and you see the ice a little bit better. People are going to want to go after you when you're going to the hard areas, throwing your body around and stuff like that. More times than not, when you play the way I do, the gritty side of the game finds you and you don't have to look for it as much.
"It is a tough balance but I think I've done a good job so far this year."
The development is encouraging to the Oilers, who chose to select him in the second round two drafts ago. Moroz understands the pressure that comes with his selection. A second-round pick is expected to eventually contribute at the NHL club. He embraces the expectations.
"I think through the start of this year it's coming a long way and I think I'm going to continue to grow and I'll be ready to jump to the pro game next year for sure, wherever that is. Obviously, you want to make the big club first and I'm going to do everything in my power to put myself in a position to do that. We'll see how the year goes."
Moroz has been living a dream ever since being drafted by the team for which he grew up rooting. That dream hit its peak during 2013 training camp.
Growing up an Oilers fan, he attended several games with his father. The most memorable of those games was Game 4 of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinal against the San Jose Sharks. The Oilers battled back from being down in that game to win 6-3.
During training camp earlier this year, Oilers veteran forward Ryan Smyth, who was a major contributor during the ’06 playoff run, invited the young prospect over to his house for dinner and the two shared a bonding moment along with the food.
"During camp, it was cool. I went over to (Smyth's) house for dinner and we were just talking and I told him that I was at that game and it was the coolest thing ever. We ended up watching the replay… It was my most memorable game and when I got to relive it with Smyth, it was really cool."
During last year’s NHL work stoppage, Smyth and Moroz also bonded on the ice as the vet frequently skated with the Oil Kings and gave the forwards some tips for developing their game around the net, which is #94’s specialty. Moroz scored a goal in his lone 2013 Oilers pre-season game in Winnipeg, appropriately enough on a redirect in front of the net.
|Back to top ↑|