Ivan Morozov has been the subject of much discussion since his decision to enter the Season 58 VHL Draft. The former HC Dynamo Moscow player became the client of the Solas Agency since moving to the United States two years ago after a combination of injuries and personal troubles put a halt to his very promising professional hockey career. After a year of training, Morozov’s declaration generated a lot of interest as he hadn’t been heard from at all since leaving Russia and the KHL.
Now that he’s been claimed by the VHLM’s Oslo Storm, how will he adjust to a new league after not playing at a high level for at least five years? He’s reportedly been training with former Vasteras and Helsinki forward Willem Janssen, as well as multiple different coaches who had been previously in the VHL or VHLM, so he may understand the playing style - but will he adjust to playing at full speed against top-level opposition? Only time will tell, so we can only look to his skillset for answers.
Pros Skating - Morozov is a natural skater. Even after recovering from tearing both his ACL and MCL, the Russian-born winger is one of the smoothest skaters you’ll ever see. Much might be made of his size (or lack thereof), but his way to counter this is with incredible agility. When he’s at his best, he can glide around the rink with ease. Make no mistake, skating is Morozov’s natural-born talent. It’s only a question of whether or not he can combine the other tools to make himself a better player.
Puck Handling - Puck handling and skating are a deadly combination if a player can combine those two skills well enough. Morozov has the potential to achieve this. He can be one of the most entertaining players to watch due to his skill with controlling the puck, and has been a spark plug coming off the bench whenever his team is struggling. Morozov was known to spend a ton of time practicing alone as a kid, and that’s paid off with impressive individual skills.
Scoring - Outside of natural skating and puck handling abilities, Morozov is still a pretty raw talent. He doesn’t necessarily have as much experience playing with a team, and as a result can sometimes make poor decisions or expose his own weaknesses. One thing that was supposedly an area of focus during his preparations for the VHLM was goalscoring, which he had shown potential in. He’s very good at keeping the puck, but he sometimes struggles with knowing what to do with hit - if Morozov can capitalize on this potential, it’ll be very beneficial to his career.
Cons Strength & Size - Morozov has reportedly bulked up a bit in the last year in preparation, but he’s still undersized in comparison to many other VHL players. It’ll be very easy to push him off the puck, and while he may be agile enough to get away, he’ll be at a higher level of play now and could very well struggle against players that are bigger and agile.
Passing - Morozov isn’t much of a team player. He generally keeps to himself both on and off the ice, and as a result his passing abilities don’t really match up. Even when he tries to pass the puck, he tends to struggle at picking the right time and the right player, or just completely misses the player. If he can turn into an elite scorer, he might be able to make his selfishness on the ice less of a problem, but as it stands he doesn’t have that.
Defense - A lack of size can be really harmful on the defensive end of the ice, but at the same time Morozov doesn’t even bother to put any effort in at all. It’s yet to be seen how this will work for him in the VHL, but it many frustrate some teammates. To really maximize his success, teams will have to group him with linemates who put in more effort on the forecheck if they can’t get him to work harder.