When the Philadelphia Flyers stepped up to the podium and selected six-foot-six defenseman Samuel Morin from the Rimouski Oceanic at 11th overall in 2013, there were some mixed reviews. Some people immediately thought Chris Pronger 2.0, while others were left scratching their heads.
If you look at his makeup, standing nearly seven feet tall and weighing in over 200 pounds, you can see where the Pronger comparisons come from. Like Pronger, he is a towering force and a player that you keep your head up against.
On the opposite side of the coin, skeptics said his foot speed was an issue and he was simply too slow to be an effective NHL defenseman. If you look at the direction that the league is going, players are getting smaller and quicker. He held his own in juniors, but the question is, will his game transition well to the new NHL or will he be left behind?
This season has been rough as he has dealt with some injury trouble. He’s been limited to two games this season with the Flyers and only 15 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The hope is that it won’t affect his development and that he can have a strong finish to the season.
Heads Up, Seven Up
Players have quickly realized that you have to have your head on a swivel Morin is out there on the ice. He is like a shark hunting for fresh blood. He’s not afraid to step up and make the big hit, which is where some of the liabilities in his early career have come from. He needs to be smarter with picking his spots. There are times when you can step up and deliver the big hit but there are also situations that call for a simple poke check.
In order to be an effective player and a solid defenseman, Morin needs to keep the sand paper in his game. It instills fear in the opposing players often causing turnovers or giveaways when he plays it right. He is an effective net clearing presence and goalies love when he is around, as long as his big frame doesn’t alter their view of the puck. Goalies also like having Morin on the ice because nobody gets away with free shots at the goalies hands or pads – and if they do they get a face full of Morin.
There have been glimpses of the great player that Morin can be. Those are the games when he makes smart plays like good breakout passes from the defensive zone, clearing the net, making smart hits, using his reach to his advantage and getting pucks on net. When Morin is on his game, he keeps things simple and opponents are aware of his presence.
Morin’s Not Afraid of the ‘Fisticuffs’
Search YouTube for Samuel Morin and you’re sure to find a great fight. Whether it be from his days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) or from his couple years of professional hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, they’re all entertaining. Maybe more entertaining for us than the opponent that is getting dragged across the ice, but nonetheless entertaining. He’s a man among boys and you can’t help but feel bad for the players that cross him.
In juniors, players trying to make an impact on their teams would challenge him because they wanted to show they weren’t afraid to take on the biggest guy on the team. Many of them quickly found out that that was a mistake. He put up over 100 penalty minutes (PIM) in two of his four seasons with Rimouski and over 50 in the other two. He also put up over 100 PIM in each of his first two seasons with Lehigh Valley — but, if you look at this year’s totals, he is sitting at only 26 PIM through 15 games played showing his maturity level.
The Reincarnation of Pronger?
Looking at him out on the ice you can’t help but get flashbacks of Pronger. He’s a towering force who no one wants to mess with. Players are afraid to go head-to-head with him in the corners and often cough up the puck because they’re overthinking when he is on the ice. If you touch his goalie or one of his teammates he is not afraid to take care of business.
The Flyers have missed this type of presence over the years. A guy who is going to take a penalty from time to time just because he plays on the line. You can accept those penalties when they’re warranted but not when they’re bone-headed plays. If he gets an instigator for protecting a teammate then so be it. This type of player can cause a coach to scratch his head but you know they always have the team’s best interest in mind.
While he may not carry the leadership qualities or the offensive skills that Pronger did, Morin is going to be a solid stay at home defenseman. He’s the kind of player that fans have to manage expectations on. He is not going to be an impact player when it comes to the scoreboard. You will know Morin had a strong game by not hearing his name.
Unless the Flyers fall out of contention this season or they have a few injuries on the back end, Morin is most likely not going to get the call to the NHL. This is a smart move by Dave Hakstol because the extra year of seasoning in the AHL is going to pay dividends when next season rolls around. With Brandon Manning’s contract coming up at the end of the season, this could be the roster spot that Morin wins in the 2018-19 season. One thing is for sure — Morin is not intimidated by anything. He has a Broad Street Bully mentality that is sure to make him a fan favourite and a solid defenseman for years to come.
A writer covering the Philadelphia Flyers and NHL Prospects. Kurtis is also a Guelph Storm season ticket holder. Feel free to contact Kurtis at @kurtiswells92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.