PENTICTON, B.C. — Josh Morrissey would like nothing more than to follow Jacob Trouba’s quick path to the NHL.
He just doesn’t want to give his friend and fellow defenceman too much credit in public.
Morrissey is among the Winnipeg Jets prospects taking part in a four-team rookie tournament here ahead of the start of NHL training camps — the same event where Trouba kicked off what would become an outstanding 2013-14 rookie season that culminated with a sixth-place finish in Calder Trophy voting.
"If you can mimic what Troubs has done, obviously you would. He had a fantastic year last year," said Morrissey. "He’s one of my good friends. I won’t pump him up too much, but if I could do anything like Troubs did I would be happy.
"Seeing what he did gives me motivation to do the same thing."
Trouba — who was drafted by the Jets ninth overall in 2012 and finished with 10 goals and 19 assists in 65 games with Winnipeg last season — had the benefit of playing against older players in U.S. college hockey at the University of Michigan for one season, while Morrissey has spent the last three seasons with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
The 19-year-old Morrissey is the same age that Trouba was at this time last year and said he has learned a lot from watching how the Rochester, Minn., product dealt with the pressure of making the jump to the NHL.
"The biggest thing I can take from him last year would be that he’s a pretty easy-going guy who doesn’t get flustered," said Morrissey, the 13th pick in 2013. "I think he’s a really relaxed guy and whether he had a good game, bad game or whatever he just stays on a pretty even keel."
The smooth-skating Morrissey had 28 goals and 45 assists in 59 games for Prince Albert last season before joining Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, for eight regular-season and 20 playoff games.
"To go up there and get a chance to play, and play a regular shift and power play in every game throughout the playoffs really helped my development and my confidence," said the six-foot 186-pound Calgary native. "Now I just want to show that I can do that at the NHL level."
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge is leading the Jets prospects at the rookie camp hosted by the Vancouver Canucks that also includes players from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. His assessment of Morrissey’s skillset sounded a lot like what has made Trouba successful.
"He really sees the ice well. The poise that he plays at … sometimes he’s so calm it comes off as nonchalant but it’s not," said McCambridge. "He’s a player that thinks the game really well and thinks it under pressure. The pace that he plays at when he needs to play at a fast pace or slow it down is one of his strong points."
Other players that look set to join up with the main Jets camp beginning on Thursday include forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan and Scott Kosmachuk.
The ninth overall pick at June’s draft, the 18-year-old Ehlers finished with 49 goals and 55 assists in 63 games for the Halifax Mooseheads last season on the way to being named QMJHL and CHL rookie of the year.
"We’re all here for a reason," said the native of Aalborg, Denmark. "We all want to make the team, so we’ve just got to make the best out of it and see what happens."
Petan had 35 goals and 78 assists in 63 games for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in 2013-14, but said taking care of his own end will be a key to any future success because of his five-foot-nine 173-pound frame.
"My offensive game will kind of take care of itself," said the 19-year-old centre from Delta, B.C., who was selected 43rd in 2013. "I just need to focus on my defence. These (tournament) games are really important for me just to play good defensively."
The 70th pick back in 2012, Kosmachuk is another intriguing prospect for the Jets after the 20-year-old from Toronto led the OHL’s Guelph Storm with 101 points (49 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games last season.
But while those statistics — especially the goals — are impressive, McCambridge cautioned not to expect similar numbers at the pro level right away.
"My experience with players like Kosmachuk is you think it’s going to be lights out to start, that he’s going to knock it out of the park with regards to putting pucks in the net and getting the points that he put up in junior, but nine times out of ten it takes time," said the coach. "All of a sudden these players are a lot bigger and a lot stronger than you faced in junior and you’ve got to find a way to fight through those hard areas."
The Jets could opt to start the season with any one of Morrissey, Ehlers and Petan on the roster and play them for as many as nine games before having to decide whether or not to keep them in Winnipeg and burn a year off their entry-level contracts, or send them back to junior. Those three are not eligible for the AHL, while Kosmachuk could start the season in St. John’s because of his age.
Morrissey — who along with Petan played for Canada at the 2014 world junior hockey championship and would appear to be a lock if he gets sent back to Prince Albert — understands there are lots of variables set to determine where he plays this season.
"I’m coming in here 100 per cent trying to make the Winnipeg Jets," he said. "All I can control is myself and my own game, how hard I worked this past summer, how I perform on the ice and off the ice … at the end of the day I obviously hope the chips fall the way I want them to but that’s out of your control.
"If I end up in Winnipeg or back in junior, I’m going to give whatever team I play for my best and my all. That’s all I can do."