Samuel Morin – Press Box Warrior or Top Defense Prospect

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Samuel Morin is one of the more exciting defensive prospects in the Philadelphia Flyers loaded pipeline. Standing at 6’7″ and listed at 225 pounds, the towering blue-liner is the most imposing figure to suit up in the orange and black since Chris Pronger. The only problem is that after three games Morin has remained in the press box. Other rookies get their chance. Will Morin?

Samuel Morin – Press Box Warrior or Top Defense Prospect

The first pick for the Flyers in the 2013 draft (11th overall) garnered moans and groans from the experts and fans who saw Morin as a player in the Broad Street Bully model. In most prospect rankings this summer, Morin was on the lower end of the Flyers top 10 prospects, rarely entering the top five for the team. While the Flyers are lauded for having one of the best pool of young prospects, Morin isn’t contributing much to that ranking.

In contrast, fellow defenseman Travis Sanheim is one of those highly ranked prospects. Despite some obvious early struggles, Flyers brass has stuck with the offensively inclined rookie. Robert Hagg is another rookie who has gotten playing time over Morin. A second rounder in the same draft as Morin, Hagg has almost identical AHL statistics. The Swede, however, lacks the physical edge and size of Morin but seems to be favored because of his skating ability. Hagg, a lower ranked prospect than both Sanheim and Morin, gets the nod despite not producing any points through the first four games of the season. Morin also holds a gold medal from the World Junior Championships. Neither Hagg or Sanheim can say that.

Sanheim is adjusting to playing a 200-foot game and defensive zone play. Hagg is also having issues in his own zone, especially with net front coverage. Both have been unable to prevent screens that have resulted in chances and goals for Flyers opponents. Despite these hiccups, Morin hasn’t been able to get into the lineup. A top ten prospect who fills a defensive need remains sidelined for the possibility of offensive gain.

A New Style of Play

Morin is a prototype for a tough defenseman to play against. Despite his size, he moves quite well and isn’t afraid to throw his large size around. He was one of the leaders in hits for the AHL’s Leigh Valley Phantoms, as well as penalty minutes. Morin won a fight handily over Bobby Farnham in the preseason. While fighting and physicality aren’t at a premium anymore in the NHL, both are still useful skills, especially for a defenseman playing in a tough Metropolitan Division. Ideally, he’d be a good foil for more offensive oriented players like Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

The Flyers brass hasn’t indicated if they are relying on or asking for more offense from their prospect. Morin isn’t a scorer. He does have a heavy shot when he gets a chance to fire. The defender launched 110 shots last season in the AHL, no small feat considering his lack of powerplay minutes. He scored a preseason goal on a shot he pounded off the bottom of the crossbar.

Morin is an adept shot blocker, as most men his size would be. Despite not being the fastest player, his long legs make up time rather quickly and he can move efficiently. He boasts a strong first pass. Standing at 6’7″ doesn’t hurt your vision either. It allows him to cover a wide area.

Two Possible Theories

The first is that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has a reputation for leaving young players out of the lineup. Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provorov saw time in the press box last year as punishment for mistakes. Under this theory, Morin is just the latest player to find himself in the doghouse. Morin made a few turnovers in the preseason which might have lead to his early season scratching. With the Flyers currently carrying eight defensemen, at least two need to sit.

The second theory is  Travis Sanheim is being showcased. The Flyers are flush with offensive-minded defensemen and could look to trade one to address other areas of need. Sanheim is a higher ranked prospect with offensive upside and could bring back a high return. A Sanheim showcase for a trade makes Morin sitting makes sense. The highly touted Phillipe Myers looks like he will be ready to join the Flyers as soon as next season. With Gostisbehere, Provorov, and Radko Gudas all locked into their positions, the Flyers have a logjam on defense. Players like Hagg and Sanheim become tradeable. Morin fills a much-needed gap on the team, by bringing size and physicality to the blueline. Ron Hextall has been known to make bold moves, so a trade is not out of the question.

Unfortunately, the Flyers sent Morin down to the AHL today. Whether this is a short stint or long-term stay is unknown at this time. Management must believe he is better served playing than sitting in the press box.

We’ll see whether or not Morin finds himself back with the Flyers this season.

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