Despite the fact that the Flyers are most likely frustrated by their inability to be an active player in NHL free agency, mostly due to the fact that they have not been able to unload the salary cap-crippling Vincent Lecavalier, the organization has to like what the future holds. This week, the team is holding their annual player development camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. The glorified clinic is mostly a chance for the organization to get their first look at their 2014 draft picks and check back in on some of their prospects playing at various levels of minor-league and junior hockey. Very little of the multi-day affair can be used for legitimate talent evaluation, as there is no contact or game-situation drills. That said, the Flyers probably are paying closer attention to a cluster of prospects who are either expected to contend for a roster spot when the 2014-2015 season starts or ones who hold a key role in the future success of the organization. Despite the fact that Ron Hextall’s tenure would probably be more highlighted by its frustrations left behind by former GM Paul Holmgren, one of the leftovers of Homer’s reign has to have the new shot-caller pretty excited about the not-so-distant future.
Sam Morin says he was 6-6 and 203 when the #Flyers drafted him. He weighed in at 224 and was measured at 6-foot-7 yesterday.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) July 10, 2014
Though one could make a strong case for NCAA Champion Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton, or 1st round pick Travis Sanheim as players that are under the close watch of Hextall and the team’s scouts, 2013 1st round pick Sam Morin has been the talk of camp for all the right reasons. Drafted out of Quebec with the 9th overall pick in last year’s entry draft, Morin took the podium alongside Holmgren a lanky, boyish looking teenager. One had to scoff a bit at the Chris Pronger comparisons, given the fact that it looked like he could be snapped like a breadstick by anything resembling a body check. Fast-forward a year and Morin, still just 18 years old, looks and sounds like a man who will be anchoring the Philadelphia blue lines for years to come when he finally makes it to the NHL.
Morin spent the past year playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. There, he continued to round out his skills as a hopeful #1 defenseman capable of playing a shutdown defensive role with an offensive game to go along with it. The following profile piece, put together by TVA Sports, contains some impressive highlights of the defenseman’s game.
****WARNING-HEAVY DOSES OF FRENCH-CANADIAN LINGO AHEAD (NO ENGLISH)*******
While most of the highlights show Morin up against significantly inferior, at least from a physical standpoint, opponents; it is impossible to ignore the sort of imposing presence he has. For a teenager, to have built himself up to basically what Pronger played at for most of his career is a promising sign for the potential ring leader of a Flyers blue line of the future that could be devastatingly good. Dave Isaac of the Courier Post interviewed Morin, amongst others, about how they see their future with the Flyers.
On weighing in at 224 pounds for his physical on Wednesday…
I have to put more weight on during the summer for sure. I think 224 is good. I want to be in camp at 226 or 228. That’s what (assistant strength and conditioning coach) Ryan Podell told me.
Less nervous at camp this time around…
I enjoy the camp. I like to play hockey and I like to be here. I like the city and the fans. I’m not nervous. On the ice I feel very comfortable.
On the group of defensemen including him, Hagg, Sanheim and Gostisbehere…
I think we have good guys here, really good hockey players. It’s fun. In camp we have inside competition. That’s always good.
On if it’s realistic for him to make the NHL this season…
I think so. When I work hard, if I have a good camp, we’ll see. I live in the present. Right now I’m in development camp after my Team Canada camp, after my Rimouski camp. It’s a long summer. A lot of camp. For sure I think I have my chance.
If you play good, for sure they can’t let me go so I have to play the best I can.
On if he’d be upset if he ended up going back to the QMJHL for another season…
No, no, no, no, no. If I go back in Rimouski I can be the captain and I can be a leader in the league and get confidence. That’s a decision for the Flyers. We’re gonna see, but I won’t be disappointed if I go back to juniors.
On if he’s looking forward to being the captain…
At 16 in juniors I was a leader. That’s what my coaches told me. I don’t think you need that to be a leader, but for sure if I play in the NHL one day I’m gonna be a leader.
On what in his game needs improving…
My cardio, my game shape have to improve. To be in the NHL you have to be in great shape. I improved on a lot of things this year, my skating, my shot has to be better to be at the NHL level, my execution and good pass, everything.
Though few expect Morin to make the NHL team out of camp, it is great to see him striving to do just that. One of Pronger’s best assets, his confidence bordering on arrogance, had nothing to do with any of his physical gifts. Morin is not nearly as polished as Pronger was when he debuted as a 19-year old with the Hartford Whalers. That said, he appears to have faith in himself that there is very little keeping him from breaking through the ranks and headlining a homegrown blue line the likes of which this team hasn’t seen in decades. Here is the Day 1 piece on Morin provided by the Flyers team website.
Hard not to be excited about this kid. Along with Gostisbehere, Sanheim, 2013 2nd round pick Robert Hagg, and many others; the Flyers defense corps could soon be resembling the type of top-to-bottom groups that the Blackhawks and Kings currently possess. As Ron Hextall knows full well, championships are built from the back-end forward. Morin seems like a pretty good place to start.