Since Greg Carvel took over as head coach at the University of Massachusetts, he’s changed the culture in Amherst, quickly transforming UMass into one of the top college hockey destinations in the country.
Yes, winning the national championship last season helps, but it’s the development piece that has made UMass an attractive option to young hockey players who are looking to use college hockey as a springboard to the National Hockey League.
From 2003-2011, Carvel split time between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators as an assistant coach.
With that experience, Carvel has learned what it takes for college hockey players to find success at the NHL level, especially defensemen coming out of the NCAA. Because of that, Carvel and the staff have found much success molding UMass defensemen for the next level.
Mario Ferraro, Cale Makar and Zac Jones are just a few recent examples of that. Freshmen Scott Morrow hopes to be the next name added to the list.
“I think the biggest thing for me that attracted me to come (to UMass) was that coach Carvel ran an NHL bench for defensemen in Ottawa and Anaheim, so he’s obviously seen a ton of guys,” Morrow told HockeyBuzz.
“In a place like this, there’s not like one secret that chugs out those guys, it’s kind of how we approach things every day. I think our culture here is pretty special, the way we conduct ourselves and our practice habits as a collective group really works for development.”
Morrow was drawn to hockey at an early age thanks in large part to his uncle Scott and father Steve, who played together at the University of New Hampshire. Scott was drafted in the fifth round of the 1988 NHL entry draft by the Hartford Whalers, eventually appearing in four NHL games with the Calgary Flames.
Steve was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987, appearing in 69 games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Because of his father’s ties to the Flyers, Morrow grew up a Flyers fan.
“They were the ones in my family that got into hockey first and then it was kind of natural for my dad to let me try it out and I instantly fell in love with it,” Morrow said.
After much success playing youth hockey in Connecticut, Morrow found his way to Shattuck St. Marys, the national hockey powerhouse that was once home to players such as Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise and Sidney Crosby among many other former and current NHL stars.
"The experience [at Shattuck] for me was pretty incredible, the coaching staff and everyone there. There’s been a ton of players that have come out of the program before me, and I am sure there will be after me as well that are good NHL players,” Morrow said. “They kind of have seen everything, (they) kind of know how to develop people.”
This past summer Morrow was drafted in the second round of the NHL entry draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. While Morrow was expecting to be drafted somewhere in round two, he was a bit surprised that it was the Hurricanes that were ultimately the ones calling his name.
“I was kind of freaking out, I didn’t know where I was going to go, but Carolina was a team that only interviewed me once prior to the draft, so they weren’t one of the teams that I would of necessarily guessed I would go to,” Morrow said. “When I got the call, I was a bit shocked to be honest.”
Morrow has brief USHL experience, playing in two games with the Youngstown Phantoms in 2019-20 and then six playoff games with Fargo in 2020-21. Morrow had planned on spending the entire 2020-21 season with Fargo, but with uncertainties surrounding COVID, returning to Shattuck made the most sense.
“I thought there was no reason to force it and go early. I’m a player who has a really offensive game for a defenseman and if I went at a younger age, it would have been tough for me to get the power play time and the reps with the puck that I needed to develop my game—maybe wouldn’t have had as much freedom as I did at Shattuck to make plays, develop my brain and my instincts,” said Morrow.
“I was planning on going to Fargo for the full season but COVID kind of threw a wrench into things. At the beginning of the year there was a lot of uncertainties, and I was pretty convinced that we would have a pretty normal year at Shattuck. It was just kind of the safer option both off and on the ice health wise, and just being able to play games.”
Morrow had originally committed to North Dakota where he had hoped to begin his college hockey career this season. But the program in Grand Forks had other plans, wanting Morrow to spend a full season in the USHL before beginning as a freshman in 2022.
“North Dakota just stressed to me that they like all their guys to play a year of juniors before coming in and I think my game was definitely college ready this year,” Morrow said. “I believed in myself and thought it would be better for me to get to playing college hockey this season. I’m really happy with the way things ended up and couldn’t imagine it going any different.”
After decommitting to North Dakota, Morrow wound up on the campus of UMass where betting on himself has paid off. He’s second on the team in goals (4), assists (7) and points (11) through 12 games.
After starting the season 0-2, being swept at home by Minnesota State, the Minutemen have won eight of 11 and find themselves a point back of Providence for the top spot in Hockey East.
Morrow has already shown the ability to score big goals. His first collegiate goal came back on Oct. 30 against Merrimack, the game-winner in overtime. The following weekend, he was the lone scorer in a 1-0 victory over a Providence squad that entered the weekend red-hot.
“I think my ability to create offense is what really drives my game and I’m at my best when I’m really moving my feet and making plays with the puck,” Morrow said. “I think playing on the half-wall on the power play is something I’ve never done before, but I’ve done a lot of work on that since I’ve been here. I’ve been really successful; our power play unit has been successful as a whole.”
It certainly feels like it’s only a matter of time before Morrow is defending the blueline in Carolina. His offensive game is certainly NHL-ready, and his defensive game continues to improve with each passing game.
Developing under coach Carvel and his staff, Morrow’s all-around game will continue to improve as well.
“The coaching staff really harps on me about my play away from the puck and I think that’s an area that’s improved a ton,” said Morrow. “Just working on areas of my game that aren’t as flashy has been something that the coaches have been really good about here."
On Tuesday, USA Hockey released its preliminary roster for the upcoming 2022 World Junior Championship. As expected, Morrow was one of 31 players named to the roster. The roster will be cut down to 25 before the tournament begins in Edmonton and Red Deer on Dec. 26.
“It would be the biggest honor ever to be able to wear the USA jersey, I’ve never really had that chance, I’ve gotten cut from multiple USA teams before and it’s really stabbed me in a way getting cut from another team wouldn’t,” Morrow said.
“It would just be the biggest honor ever to wear that USA jersey and go against some other countries and play with some pride. It would be a truly special experience and I can’t wait to get out there and attempt to make the team.”
Top-10 Power Rankings:
Nathan Smith - Minnesota State/Jets Prospect
Josh Doan – Arizona State/Coyotes Prospect