Oilers stay local with 32nd overall selection
Edmonton picks Oil Kings power forward Mitch Moroz in second round
"It's pretty special, a dream come true for me," Moroz said just moments after he was selected, donning the Oilers blue and orange for the first time. "I couldn't be happier, honestly. I don't know what else to say. It's unbelievable."
Just two picks into the second day of the Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the Oilers stayed true to their recent trend of selecting an Oil Kings major junior player, opting for the 18-year-old Moroz. The Oilers picked another power forward Travis Ewanyk 74th overall at the 2011 Draft in Minnesota, and import players Kristians Pelss and Martin Gernat are also Oilers draft picks on the Oil Kings roster.
Moroz was born in Edmonton but raised in Calgary before returning to Alberta's capital after he was selected by the Oil Kings in the WHL Bantam Draft. He played his first full major junior season in 2011-12, tallying 16 goals and 25 total points in 66 regular season games, in addition to eight points in 20 playoff games as the Oil Kings won the WHL championship.
His offensive abilities are a bonus for the Oilers, whose primary reason for picking Moroz is his strength and toughness. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound left-winger racked up 133 penalty minutes during the 2011-12 regular season.
"We wanted to add some size to potentially play with some of our more profile people, and I think we accomplished that," Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said. "He's got a great attitude, and he's got quite a presence for a young man. There's a lot of upside there, because he can contribute with the puck, and we obviously know he's got the courage to stand up and take care of a lot of people too."
"I'm a big power forward and I think that's an area (the Oilers) needed to improve and I'm hoping to address that," Moroz added. "I'm going to continue to play my big game and do what's best for the team."
Moroz achieved huge gains in the Central Scouting rankings as the season progressed, sitting in the 171st position among North American skaters in the Mid-Term poll. He advanced to the 72nd spot in the Final Rankings before making another huge jump at the Draft itself, as the Oilers took him 32nd.
"He wasn't getting to our next pick, and we knew that," said Tambellini, meaning he felt Moroz would no longer be available when the team was scheduled to select again in the 63rd spot at the start of the third round. "We knew other teams had spent a lot of time with him, interviewing and testing."
"You always have to step up if there's a player you like, and we like him," Oilers Head Scout Stu MacGregor added. "We think his development curve is on the way up, and he provides, not just toughness, but he's a good hockey player. He takes the puck to the net real hard and shows a bit of touch around the net. I think he's got a good chance to be a good player for us."
Though he's split his 18 years between Calgary and Edmonton, Moroz says he was raised an Oilers fan, making Saturday's selection that much more jubilant for him and his family.
"This is pretty special for my family," Moroz said. "We grew up as Oilers fans. "I spoke with them and all my meetings went really well. They liked how I played, but it's still a surprise for me. I wasn't sure where I was going to go, but I knew they liked me, so I couldn't be happier. This is definitely where I wanted to be."
Moroz figures to be a key contributor in the Oil Kings lineup next season, as they look to repeat as WHL champions and once again represent the league at the Memorial Cup. He knows there will be Oilers personnel tracking his development closely throughout the season, based on the proximity.
"I know (the Oilers) are going to be there watching me every game, so there's extra incentive to do well and perform at every game and every practice," Moroz said. "Being in the rink and knowing all the history that's happened there is something neat."
Moroz was one of three Oil Kings selected in the top 32 at the 2012 Draft, as defenceman Griffin Reinhart went fourth overall to the New York Islanders and another power forward Henrik Samuelsson was selected 27th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes. Edmonton had more top-32 selections this year than any other Canadian Hockey League team, which was music to the ears of Oil Kings GM Bob Green.
"It feels pretty good," Green said. "I'm really proud of the kids and the work they've done. I'm excited for them and the opportunity that's ahead. "Our scouts have done a great job drafting these kids. Hopefully it makes us an attractive destination for players and helps us with our recruiting. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning program that moves kids on to the National Hockey League. Hopefully they see us in that light."