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Morrissey and Lazar building on Hlinka momentum

Josh Morrissey and Curtis Lazar were big contributors in Canada's fourth straight gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka this past August - and have carried their strong play into the start of the WHL campaign.

Morrissey, who led Team Canada with seven assists in five games in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, is producing at a similar clip for the Prince Albert Raiders, currently sitting atop the league with a 5-0-1 record.

The Raiders knocked off the defending champion Oil Kings 4-1 on Thursday night in Edmonton. Morrissey iced the game with a slick heads-up play to knock the puck past an opponent and then fire a rink-length strike for an empty-net goal.

Josh Morrissey (D), Prince Albert - wearing an 'A' as a 17-year-old .. won three team awards during a standout rookie year in `11-12: scholastic player of the year, rookie of the year, best conditioned .. a smooth and agile skater with exceptional lateral agility .. displays impressive poise and skill as a puckmover .. slippery and skilled .. talented at creating initial space for breakouts, utilizing his skating strengths to advantage .. makes sharp stops and directional changes to shake off initial pressure .. will hold the puck that extra second in order for plays to open up - and delivers an accurate lead pass .. also gets rushed into making poor decisions under the threat of heavy physical checks at times .. can architect plays from the back-end - however is also just as capable of taking it end-to-end .. quite an innovative decision maker - and somewhat high-risk, high-reward .. able to pull off moves that other defensemen wouldn’t even imagine .. shines on the power play .. adept at 'walking the line' and spraying passes in all directions .. exploits his superior pivoting ability to create lateral passing lanes for himself - able to receive and distribute while spinning on the spot .. lacks mustard on his slapshot, but does pack an effective wrist shot that manages to get through traffic .. aggressive closing gaps in the neutral zone .. can labour to keep the play in front of him however .. more of a tracker defensively .. cuts down angles and forces the play outside with his speed but doesn’t always contain .. needs to work on positioning - staying goal-side on checks - establishing an early edge .. targeted on cross-court shoot-ins - opponents dump the puck into his corner and force him to chase the forechecker on the cycle .. gets drawn away from protecting and defending the crease-front area .. does compensate with good, active stickchecking .. benefits being paired with a physical, stay-at-home type - such as Harrison Ruopp - who can patrol the front of the net .. strength needs to fill in - generously listed at six-foot in height - and still wispy all over - and easily knocked over from behind.

Curtis Lazar (C), Edmonton - leads the Oil Kings with four goals in his first five games .. failed to bulge the twine in this contest but still showed off a complete game and level of intelligence that will make him a high pick next June .. just a 'hockey player' in every sense .. not overtly mean, yet fiercely competitive and diligent - with deceiving toughness .. a natural playmaker - quick to indentify openings and execute - finds seams before they close .. possesses tremendous situational sense - an ability to make a rapid assessment and create on the spot .. his skating is a work in progress as he can look a tad choppy and sluggish in terms of first-step quickness .. difficult to derail once he gets a full head of steam however .. boasts soft hands and a heavy shot that he uses productively to create rebounds when there are no other playmaking options .. excels executing on the transition as he is adept at taking passes in full flight without breaking stride .. character player - takes hits to make plays - battles along the glass and willingly engages in contact .. puts his mid-sized body in some uncompromising spots yet absorbs hits exhibiting surprising resilience .. shows a keen appetite for the puck and a desire to make plays .. keeping the engine running full throttle will be critical though .. tends to emit bursts of playmaking verve - only to deflate briefly .. perhaps the most impressive part of his game is a defensive conscience and positional maturity that belies his age .. comes back deep in strong support positions - doesn't appear overwhelmed or rushed .. provides physical support as well - will deliver stiff hits along the boards in his own zone - intelligent physical management ..

Mason Geertsen (D), Edmonton - the term 'beast' quickly springs to mind - as the mammoth six-foot-four, 220-pound defender plays a bruising style .. hard to play against, brings an imposing and developed physical game .. battles 1-on-1 and finishes checks with authority - displaying impressive technique driving his powerful frame into opponents while keeping stick and arms down .. gets opponent hearing footsteps .. gets around the ice adequately enough with a wide, chunky bow-legged stride .. not particularly quick off the mark, yet attains decent cruising speed .. struggles backing up and sustaining solid gaps .. must work on his defensive postures as well .. gets drawn out of his lanes chasing hits - a type of heat-seeking missile, focussed solely on making contact .. does a solid job moving the puck though, keeping his outlet game simple and safe.