Imagine being 17 years old and a rising star in your draft year. Then being selected by one of the premiere teams in the NHL during the entry draft and immediately compared to one of the greatest defenseman of all-time because of your similar size and physicality in your game.
The pressure on Samuel Morin’s shoulders must have been immense.
Morin was sent back to toil in juniors after he was drafted where he would later help Team Canada to a gold medal in the 2015 World Juniors, as well as secure a President’s Cup win with the Rimouski Oceanic as the QMJHL champions. The aura around the hulking teenager continued to build.
His first season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms actually went considerably well. He managed to score four goals and 19 points while racking up a whopping 118 penalty minutes in 76 contests during the 2015-16 season. His sophomore season in Lehigh was almost identical, with three goals, 16 points, and 129 penalty minutes in 74 games. As the 2016-17 came to a close, he was recalled by the Flyers and made his NHL debut on April 4, 2017. Morin played 17:47 during that game and, despite going pointless, got his feet wet in the NHL and seemed primed to make a run at a full time roster spot the following season.
Morin challenged for a roster spot out of training camp in 2017-18, and while he made the official cut and joined the team on their opening road trip, he didn’t see any ice time, losing the final roster spot to fellow rookie Robert Hagg. He was ultimately loaned back to the Phantoms and that’s where his tale begins to unravel.
Upon his return to Lehigh Valley his play seemed off. It was clear he was playing through some kind of injury, but he was intent to work through it. Nonetheless, a Flyers’ roster spot opened right before Thanksgiving when fellow defenseman Andy MacDonald was hurt and Radko Gudas was suspended. Morin was recalled by the Flyers and suited up for two games in a home-and-home series against the Islanders.
During his stint in Philly, it was discovered Morin had torn his psoas muscle, the main muscle in your hip flexor, and was shutdown for almost the entirety of December 2017 upon his reassignment to the Phantoms. He managed to come back for the Phantoms’ outdoor game against the Hershey Bears, but re-injured his hip in the process. He was shutdown for good until the Phantoms playoff run in the spring.
He returned during the Phantoms’ second round series against the Charlotte Checkers but only managed to play three games before tearing his ACL in his right knee, ending his season and any hope he had of making the Flyers roster out of training camp the following season.
During the summer of 2018, Samuel Morin signed a three-year extension with the Flyers, giving hope to the now-23-year-old that the organization still had faith in his potential.
After almost nine months on the shelf, Morin returned to the Phantoms lineup for a pair of games in mid-March before he was recalled by the Flyers and dressed in five games at the end of the 2018-19 season. It was a quiet five games, only playing more than 15 minutes once, but it was a good test for him to get back into game action in a few non-consequential NHL games.
Under a new coaching regime entering the 2019-20 season, there was hope Morin would get a clean slate and a chance to finally earn an NHL roster spot. That didn’t exactly happen though, as Morin was once again the odd-man out under Alain Vigneault. He sat in the press box for almost a full month before dressing in his first game against the New York Islanders on October 27, 2019. It wasn’t a great showing and was sent down to the Phantoms on a conditioning stint before he could get another chance in the NHL.
He suited up for three games during a weekend Phantoms series with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. During the third, and probably last, game before his recall back to the Flyers, Samuel Morin once again tore his right ACL.
With an already murky future thrown into question, Morin faced a big question- go through another grueling year of rehab, or call it a career?
He chose to fight.
He underwent a second surgery in November of 2019, and the road to another return begun. He started to skate before the rest of the team during warmups right before the season was paused do to covid in early March. He stayed in Philly and continued to work out and skate during the stoppage.
Who knows if Morin has a future in the NHL in front of him. He’ll get one more crack with the Flyers organization this season, as his contract expires in the 2022 offseason. While getting updates on players isn’t easy during the pandemic, Morin should’ve been cleared for the 2020 preseason in September, and with the delayed start to the 2020-21 season, he has extra time to get his legs back under him.
Through it all, the demotions, the injuries, the lack of opportunity, Samuel Morin has had a smile on his face. His bubbly personality and exuberant energy never diminished during the struggles he’s faced. He has tried to make a comeback through a torn ACL twice. That’s something that most athlete’s don’t do, typically it’s time to call it a career. But not Samuel Morin. The determination the 25-year-old has displayed is remarkable.
Whether you love the guy or not, the drive Morin shows is an inspiring story. The “never say die” attitude Morin possesses is something we can all learn from. As he gears up for his second return, it’s safe to say the Flyers fanbase is mainly behind Morin and rooting for him to finally secure the NHL roster spot he has worked so hard to earn. As for the moral of his story, approaching life with high-spirited energy and a smile on your face while working your ass off to overcome any challenges that prevent you from living your dream is something we can all learn from, especially these days.
Dorothy Height said it best “Greatness is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has overcome to reach his goals.”
By that rule, Samuel Morin is pretty damn great.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com