By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Before the season I made a case for Sam Morin to make the roster out of camp. Now it’s time to make another plea for him to make the team to start the 2018-19 season.
The most accurate word to best describe Flyers prospect Samuel Morin is frustration. He was the start of the youth revolution when he was drafted 11th overall in 2013, where he was likened to the great Chris Pronger. The hulking 6-foot-7, 22 year old logged two impressive seasons in the QMJHL after his draft year, and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 World Juniors Tournament. But since he entered pro hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, his development has slowed tremendously.
Morin is one of only three players drafted in the top 45 of the 2013 draft to have not yet played at least five games in the NHL (Morgan Klinchuk- one game-28th overall/Zach Fucale- zero games-36th overall/Connor Hurley- zero games-38th overall).
Unfortunately, Morin has only played 15 AHL games during the 2017-18 season due to a nagging undisclosed injury. That makes this season an especially tough pill to swallow, since he desperately needed this year to prove that he can hang at the NHL level. He was recalled by the Flyers in the end of October, but an injury kept him from suiting up. He was later recalled in late November, playing in two games before being sent back to the Phantoms.
With multiple prospects drafted after him now on the roster and playing regularly, Morin is nearing the dreaded “bust” label. Before he can prove himself a worthy player at the NHL level, there are parts of his game he has to clean up. For example, he has 273 penalty minutes over the past three AHL seasons, which is way too much for someone who the Flyers consider a potential penalty killer.
While the chances of Morin becoming “the next Pronger” have diminished to a pipe dream, it isn’t fair to write him off entirely. He can still be a useful shutdown defenseman who excels at clearing the crease and killing penalties.
One of his biggest positives is that Morin could solve the noticeable issue of size on the current Flyers roster. The Bullies era has gone the way of the dinosaurs and it’s a common 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.
There is a chance Morin could find an opening on the Flyers roster to start the 2018-19 season. Brandon Manning more than likely won’t be re-signed, and it is also a possibility Morin could be a more enticing option over Radko Gudas, whose multiple suspensions have made him a liability.
Morin is due up for a contract when his entry-level deal expires this summer and he will be a restricted free agent. There is a good chance, if he gets an extension, his deal will look a lot like Brandon Manning’s current deal (two years, $1.95 million). He has been overshadowed by the more flashy, offensive-minded defensemen in the Flyers system, but a short-term bridge deal could be what Morin needs to restart his momentum and get his career back on track.
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 long-term home on the Flyers defense.
photo credit: fanragsports.com