If Robert Hagg, whom Kurt profiled at No. 9 yesterday morning, happens to be the least heralded of the Flyers' high-end defensive prospects, then Samuel Morin's got to be on the opposite end of that spectrum, at least from public perception. There's a certain level of hype brought along with being the first upper-echelon defensive prospect brought into the Flyers' system in quite some time, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down as Morin readies himself for his first year of professional hockey -- almost assuredly with Lehigh Valley.
Samuel Morin recently finished up his last season with Rimouski Oceanic on quite a run, as he -- and the team -- fell just short of a Memorial Cup victory after capturing the QMJHL's President's Cup. Offensive numbers aside (and one could say those were affected by a prolonged absence from a jaw injury), there was a lot to like about Morin's play from a "tools" standpoint. He's got the size, the reach, the physicality and the aggressive nature to amplify all three in that skill set.
But -- as we have all found out -- most of the talk centered around Sam Morin so far has been about what he's destined to do as a professional player, and not necessarily what he's shown up until this coming season. That's incredibly fascinating. Perhaps the fanbase has been impatiently waiting for a prospect of his caliber to come to light. Perhaps the fanbase is enamored with his size and strengh. Perhaps it's the interviews.
Whatever it may be, fans and the organization alike will finally get to see what Morin can do as a professional player, because, from this point on, his development path is going to be pretty straightforward; as his junior time comes to an end, Morin has no choice but to make the jump as a professional player -- either with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or the Philadelphia Flyers.
We're getting to the point where we're starting to say the same thing about a good deal of the defensive prospects because they're all at or around the same spot with regards to their development. Three (or perhaps four, depending on whether or not Provorov is ready) of them are about to break through into full-time professional territory (or already have). Gostisbehere has already seen NHL action. Hagg was given increased responsibilities in Lehigh Valley due to injuries on the backend, and he did pretty well. Morin's about to enter his first professional season. Some onlookers are already calling for Provorov to make the team depending on whether or not there's space for him.
What separates all of them is the skill set each of them brings to the table, and perhaps that's why Morin's garnered as much attention without even appearing in a professional game. It's hard not to notice the 6'7", 225+ pound frame whenever he's on the ice -- especially with other ~20 year old prospects who haven't even come close to filling out their frames.
And yet, I can't help but think that out of the three defensive prospects in the Flyers' pool expected to play with the Flyers or Phantoms in 2015, Morin's got the lowest chance of hanging around with the big club -- for this coming season. Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg have already played some form of professional hockey, and, while Gostisbehere is essentially starting over after a debilitating knee injury, there's reasons why he's already made the jump. He's able to provide a skill set the Flyers, up until this point, have been sorely lacking.
Morin, on the other hand, is still a project. As multiple development camps, preseasons and seasons in junior have shown, there's still a lot of his game that needs to be addressed. He's got the size and reach, but scouts and others alike still have trouble figuring out exactly where he's going to fit, especially if his offensive capabilities (aside from an incredibly hard slap-shot) remain to be seen.
Take, for example, ESPN's Corey Pronman in his most recent analysis (ESPN Insider/paywall piece) of the Flyers' prospect system:
Samuel Morin is a prospect on whom I have been (and remain) conflicted. I hear from NHL scouts who see a top-end prospect, and though I'm not all the way there, I certainly see some things to like. His defensive play is very good. Morin has the huge, 6-foot-7 frame that is always noticed, along with his willingness to use it, but he's also a pretty smart player in his own end who can be a fantastic penalty killer. While he is mobile for his size, his subpar puck skills and offensive IQ give me cause for concern, and even among optimistic NHL scouts, nobody really sells him on being a point-producer.
Pundits have even harped on the idea that Morin wasn't even the best defenseman on his own team this past season, as another Oceanic defenseman, Jan Kostalek, ended up taking home the Emile Bouchard Trophy -- awarded to those voted as the QMJHL's best defenseman over the course of a season.
But that's not to say you shouldn't be excited about a player of his size and skating ability. It's hard-pressed not to when you're dealing with a young player that has all of the aforementioned traits. The professional game is one that isn't so easy to pick up for young defensemen, and it's extremely rare you see one flourish at Morin's age.
He's now dropped in consecutive Top 25 Under 25s, but it seems that it's little more than the Flyers adding more top-tier prospects to their organizational prospect pool. Morin's on track to receive a good deal of ice time and responsibility, most likely with Lehigh Valley, in the upcoming season. This is the year we'll all see whether or not Morin can start putting together the necessary adjustments to become a regular professional player.
And what might those adjustments be?
He'll have to fine-tune his handling of the puck, for one. Despite the jaw injury, Morin's never been that impressive of an offensive producer. He's got the tools to become a force on the defensive end, but I'm worried where he'll end up should he not get a little better on the opposite side of things. The lack of scoring wouldn't that big of an issue, however, should some of the others develop or even come close to what they're projected to be.
But, no matter what you think of him now or what you think of where he's at, this coming season will be an exciting one for Sam Morin. We'll finally see "the jump".
How we voted for Samuel Morin:
Who we voted for at No. 8:
|Robert Hagg||Samuel Morin||Robert Hagg||Samuel Morin||Samuel Morin||Travis Sanheim||Samuel Morin||Samuel Morin||Travis Konecny||Nick Cousins||Shayne Gostisbehere||Robert Hagg|