By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
There is much to be excited about heading into the 2017-18 Flyers season, mainly the introduction of a couple of rookie defensemen into the lineup. The problem is the Flyers are still transitioning through the youth movement, meaning there is some competition between the youngsters to earn roster spots. With Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Robert Hagg, and Sam Morin all vying for essentially two roster spots, it’ll come down to training camp and preseason to determine who will earn a spot in the NHL.
The one man unique in the four is Sam Morin. The hulking 6-foot-7 22-year-old is finally ready to make the leap to the NHL, yet he has major competition from the more flashy offensive-minded defensemen the Flyers have in the pipeline. Not only should Morin not be written off just yet, he should be a front-runner for the hype train moving forward.
Morin brings a strong defensive presence to the blueline, something that will readily compliment the rest of the defense. An ideal pairing with Morin would be Shayne Gostisbehere. As proven last season, Ghost is better served in an offensive role rather than forcing him to play a stay-at-home style. Morin’s main linemate during the Phantoms season was Travis Sanheim, who had a whopping 40 points in 80 games, thanks in part to Morin playing a great stay-at-home defensive game.
Sam Morin does have one major knock against him, and that’s his frequency to take penalties. Morin racked up over 100 minutes both seasons in the AHL and two 100-plus PIM seasons in Junior. The Flyers as a team have tremendously cut their penalty minutes over the past few seasons and already have Simmonds and Gudas on the team racking up a huge number of PIMs (though Simmonds was the only Flyer to break the 100-minute mark during the 2016-17 season.)
While his penalty minutes are his less desirable feature, it also ties into one of the bright spots he brings to the team. The Flyers defense and team as a whole aren’t nearly as physical as they used to be. While that’s not a bad thing, there are ways to use physicality effectively. Take Radko Gudas for example, he turned into one of the league’s top checkers last season, mastering the long-lost art of the hip check.
Simply put, Morin needs to find a way to turn his penalty minute inducing aggression into controlled checking and sturdy defensive play. If he can find a way to unlock that, he could live up to his Chris Pronger comparisons from his draft day.
Morin arguably has the most to gain during his transition to the Flyers. As the third-tallest defenseman in the NHL, he towers over the rest of the league and he knows how to use his size to his advantage. If he can wrangle some of his aggression and let guys like Gostisbehere play their game, Morin could be a hidden gem for the Flyers and take the NHL by storm.
photo credit: gnghockey.com