Vancouver Giants centre Brad Morrison gathered the puck in front of the Kamloops Blazers net, while being pursued by Blazers centre Luc Smith in WHL action at the Langley Events Centre. Troy Landreville Langley Times

Unselfish Morrison relishes set-up role

‘Pass-first’ Morrison fitting in well with Giants

Brad Morrison knows how to score goals.

Six years ago, he lit up the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association while playing for the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team, nearly reaching the 100-goal mark.

That season, Morrison had a ridiculous 97 goals and 73 assists for 170 points in 68 games — video-game numbers regardless of the level of hockey.

The following year saw more modest — but still excellent — numbers with the Cariboo Cougars of the BC Major Midget Hockey League as Morrison scored 20 goals and 30 assists in 38 games.

Adept at both scoring and setting up goals, Morrison has concentrated on his play-making skills — he has 116 career assists in 275 Western Hockey League games.

Remove his 16-year-old rookie season, and the numbers get even better and Morrison has averaged nearly half an assist per game since the start of the 2014/15 season.

Morrison was also someone Vancouver Giants general manager Glen Hanlon targeted this past off-season when he went looking to fill one of his team’s over-age roster spots. Morrison had spent his entire WHL career with his hometown Prince George Cougars.

“We wanted an offensive player and Brad has brought exactly what he we wanted,” Hanlon said.

“Brad is a pass-first type of guy.”

And pass-first is music to any sniper’s ears.

Ty Ronning can attest to that.

“(Brad) is a very unselfish player — he likes to make the pass when it is open and I try to put the puck in the net,” said the Giants leading scorer, another of the team’s over-age players.

Ronning and Morrison have been rivals for much of their WHL careers — both were first round bantam picks in 2012 with Morrison selected by Prince George and Ronning by the Vancouver — but now find themselves playing on the Giants’ top line, alongside import rookie forward Milos Roman.

Through 15 games this season —the bulk of which has been spent together — the trio has combined for 19 goals and 46 points. Morrison leads the team with 13 assists, while also scoring twice.

Morrison was quick to deflect credit.

“The intelligence of Milos is a big thing (and) his ability to make plays and get open, and he is relentless on pucks,” he said. “And you know what you are getting from Ty every game — he is going to be the hardest working guy out there.

“It is nice playing with a guy like that who can shoot the puck and score the big-time goals.”

It was at the midget level when Morrison began focusing more on setting up rather than scoring goals. And he doesn’t mind sacrificing his goal total.

“Every time you move up to a higher level of hockey, you kind of understand the way you need to play your game in order to help your team,” he said.

With this being his last season of junior hockey, Morrison has an eye on the pro game.

He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL draft. After attending the team’s rookie camp two years ago, Morrison went to the Calgary camp this past summer.

Playing professionally remains the goal but he is concentrating on wins for the time being.

“For now, all that really matters is helping get this team as many wins as they can,” Morrison said.

And if he needs any advice on the ins-and-outs of pro hockey, he has quite the network he can reach out to — his father Doug played 23 NHL games while one uncle, Mark Morrison, is an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks and another, Garth Butcher, is a former Vancouver Canucks defenceman.

And Morrison’s brother-in-law is Buffalo Sabres’ defenceman Josh Gorges.


sports@langleytimes.com

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