The one word to best describe the Flyers defenseman prospect Samuel Morin is frustration. A former 11th overall pick in 2013, slow development courtesy of Ron Hextall’s patience and a slew of injuries which crescendoed with a torn ACL in May of 2018, Morin has had an uphill climb like no other. Now fully healthy heading into the season for the first time in two years, it’s Morin’s time to earn a spot on the Flyers blueline.
The hulking 6-foot-7, 230-pound, 24-year-old made his return from a torn ACL in the dying games of the 2018-19 season, after the Flyers were long eliminated from the playoffs. Then-head coach Scott Gordon kept him on the sidelines even after his conditioning stint because he was trying to capitalize on the team’s less-than-five percent playoff odds. Needless to say the Flyers missed the playoffs, which lead to a miserable last couple games of the season after most of the players gave up. Not Samuel Morin, however, he was just getting started.
He suited up for five of the team’s last six contests and, despite going pointless, was noticeable just about every shift. Morin averaged about 13 minutes of ice time in those games and played a strong defensive-defenseman style.
Even with Morin showcasing his game, it didn’t stop new general manager Chuck Fletcher from acquiring a pair of new defenseman in the offseason. The Flyers traded Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen, then added Justin Braun after trading a pair of draft picks to San Jose. Now, the Flyers have eight NHL defenseman on the roster, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Morin has a great chance to crack the opening night roster.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it’s safe to say Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Matt Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Justin Braun will have roster spots to start the season. As of the writing of this article, Ivan Provorov has yet to sign a new contract, and who knows if he will be signed before the season opens in October. It is also not hard to believe Morin could pass Robert Hagg on the depth chart, so there is at least an off chance Morin could be in the starting six.
The Flyers already have confirmed Phil Myers will be on the third pairing to open the season. Morin and Myers found chemistry playing with the Phantoms and could form a lethal duo on the Flyers blueline with their combination of size, offensive skill, and physical presence.
There has also been a noticeable problem with the Flyers defense, and really the team as a whole, there isn’t nearly enough muscle around. The Bullies era has gone the way of the dinosaurs and it’s not an uncommon scene for the Flyers to get pushed around on a nightly basis.
Not only would Morin make a difference clearing the crease, but he’d be an asset battling along the boards. The general consensus now is if he can focus on playing a stay-at-home style of defense without doing anything too fancy, he could transcend into a solid NHL-caliber third pair defenseman. If Morin can tame his physical play on the ice into a controlled, dominating stay-at-home force, there is definitely a chance he can still find a spot on the Flyers defense.
Samuel Morin seems nothing but positive about his return and potential to see regular NHL minutes. His tendency to step up for his teammates could be a big added benefit for his roster chances heading into the 2019-20 season. Yes, Morin is going to take penalties. While he will have to cut down from the 273 minutes he accumulated during his Phantoms tenure, as long as the majority aren’t bone-headed, the team and fans alike are sure to appreciate his effort.
Whether Morin starts the season in the top six or not, hopefully the new coaching staff is not as stubborn and set in their ways as the last regime and will give players a chance to prove their worth.
By Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: NHL.com