Mitch Moroz's draft stock has climbed since few players in his draft class own his set of tools.
The Edmonton-born but Calgary-bred power winger has fit in well as a fourth-line rookie with the Edmonton Oil Kings, providing some jam while chipping in offensively and being willing to fight when necessary. At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds with a decent set of hands, Moroz is a tempting physical package. He could be considered somewhat of a WHL answer to Tom Wilson, the rugged Plymouth Whalers forward who's likely to be a first-round NHL pick thanks somewhat in part to the rarity of his skill.
"I kept working and I think I grew as a player, as a person," says Moroz, who is NHL Central Scouting's 72nd-ranked North American skater. it's really paid off late in the year and throughout the playoff run. I knew I was going to have to fight to establish myself in the league. Then that came and it gave me a chance to be more offensive and a little more dynamic.
"Whatever the team needs, I'm willing to play that role."
Moroz spent an extra season in AAA midget with the Calgary Buffaloes last season after the Oil Kings determined he needed seasoning. That left him somewhat off the draft radar coming into this season. He was ranked 171st by Central Scouting in January, but jumped 99 spots in April when the final ranking was released. All told, Moroz counted 16 goals and 25 points in 66 regular-season games with 131 penalty minutes. He added four goals and eight points in the team's 20-game run to the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
"Mitch has been outstanding for us," Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal says. "He's come a long way. We sent him home as a 16-year-old to get more ice time with the midget team. He's going to be a great power forward. You look at him right now. He's 6-2, 210 pounds, plays a strong power game, a little bit like a [Todd] Bertuzzi.
"I know a lot of NHL teams are excited about him. They're always asking, 'are people talking about him?" I tell them, 'yes, there's 30 teams talking about him.' He loves the physical game and we expect some big things out of him in the next two years."
Moroz's hometown is listed as Calgary. Given the rivalry between Alberta's two big cities, one can imagine him once coming into Rexall Place as a newbie to the Oil Kings and realizing he'd have to get used to playing a rink displaying all those Oilers championship banners. Except Moroz felt right at home.
"It's kind of funny. I grew up being an Oilers fan so there wasn't that kind of transition. I was born in Edmonton, so my parents raised me as an Oilers fan."
That gives him two hometown arenas in the WHL. Moroz counts the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the rival Calgary Hitmen play, as his favourite road rink.
"There's always a little extra jump for your friends back home," says Moroz, who tried to jump-start the Oil Kings in Friday's MasterCard Memorial Cup opener when he fought Colorado Avalanche draft choice Dillon Donnelly.
Here is the fight, if you're into that sort of thing.
1. Apart from the really obvious such as skating and building strength, what skills do you really need to improve before you can turn pro?
"Well, you can't ever be a good enough skaters. The first two steps are huge for me since I am a bigger guy, helping close on plays. You also want to work on your quick release. I want to work on scoring more goals the next couple years. Being more aware in the D [defensive] zone is big. I also need to work on setting up the play a little bit more. I like to drive the net, but sometimes the better play is to wait for your teammates to catch up."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely and think, "I need to do what he just did" or "I see what he did there and I can do that?"
"I've always liked [San Jose SHarks left wing] Ryane Clowe to pattern for myself. He does pretty much everything for those guys. [Boston Bruins left wing and Vancouver Giants grad] Milan Lucic is pretty much the ideal power forward. He's someone I pretty much look at as well."
3. What teammate has had the greatest influence on you in hockey?
"Probably [Oil Kings captain] Mark Pysyk [who is a Buffalo Sabres prospect]. Just a class act and I definitely want to follow in his footsteps, the way he carries himself and the professionalism and the leadership. That's something I've always tried to key on, even when I was a 15-year-old. Just key on the right guys to follow."
4. Hockey is very all-consuming, so what do you do when you need to unplug for a hour during the season or day during the off-season?
"I have a pretty strong faith so any time I can get to church, I do that. Hanging out with the guys, going golfing or fishing or anything like that is definitely nice in the summer time."
5. Favourite movie or TV show?
"Probably Superbad. Most of the boys know all the lines to that one so it's pretty hilarious. Superbad on the bus is always a good one."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.