When the Flyers announced that Andrew MacDonald would be out for 4-6 weeks following an injury he suffered on October 21 against the Oilers, many fans were wondering if Samuel Morin — who narrowly missed out on a roster spot following the training camp competition between himself, Robert Hagg, and Travis Sanheim — would find himself on the NHL roster to fill the gap left by MacDonald. Until this evening, however, the Flyers hadn’t made any sort of move to replace MacDonald; rather, they’ve rolled with just six healthy defensemen and elevated Brandon Manning back into a regular lineup spot.
But on Saturday night in Toronto, Shayne Gostisbehere was removed from the game after the second period following an egregious (and completely unpenalized, oh by the way) boarding by Leo Komarov. And while no additional information has been revealed from the team regarding Gostisbehere’s injury, it would appear that his injury will likely keep him out for at least the short-term future, because the team has decided that it’s going to need another defenseman on the roster.
They’ve also decided that that defenseman will be Samuel Morin.
The #Flyers have recalled D Samuel Morin from the @LVPhantoms https://t.co/wYdOgCvEaQ— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 29, 2017
Stylistically, Morin — a big, hulking defenseman who plays more of a stay-at-home style — isn’t a perfect replacement for Gostisbehere, whose high-end puck-moving ability and skating will be sorely missed for as long as he is out of the lineup. But with an absence of puck-movers readily available at the AHL level (the player probably closest to being able to replicate Ghost’s play currently on the Phantoms is T.J. Brennan, and he’s out with an injury of his own), the Flyers are calling up their third talented young defensive prospect and giving him a shot, stylistic fit be damned.
For Morin, who was reportedly playing well with the Phantoms prior to his call-up, the call-up must be fairly encouraging. It’s a clear sign from the organization to him that his absence from this roster was less about his ability and NHL-readiness and more about a simple numbers game that the Flyers are working with. If Gostisbehere is out for any extended period of time (which, to be clear, would be very bad), the door is open for Morin to get his first extended run with the NHL team, in his fifth season after being drafted 11th overall by the Flyers.
And unlike the start of the season, where Morin was with the NHL club on their four-game season opening road trip but never played, it’s tough to envision a scenario in which he’s a healthy scratch, since the Flyers only actually have six healthy defensemen on their roster. Barring something highly unforeseen, Morin will be in the lineup on Monday night against the Arizona Coyotes.
The addition of Morin does, however, create an interesting puzzle that Dave Hakstol will have to solve when it comes to forming his defensive pairings. With respect to Ivan Provorov — who, after spending two games being paired with Gostisbehere, will have another new defensive partner on Monday night — and maybe Travis Sanheim, the Flyers may find themselves hurting for passing and puck-moving ability from their blue line for as long as Ghost is out. Morin, for all of his strengths, is still a work in progress with the puck on his stick, and you’d have to think the team will look to pair him with someone who can move the puck well — Provorov or Sanheim, in other words. Failing that, the team may have no choice but to keep him on a third pairing (with Brandon Manning, in all likelihood) that will likely get easy minutes and limited ice time.
Long-term, if things go well for Morin during this call-up, it’ll be interesting to see what the Flyers choose to do once everyone else gets healthy. Ron Hextall has said time and time again that he’d very much prefer not to send prospects down once they’ve cracked the NHL roster, and while there are exceptions to that rule (Shayne Gostisbehere and Scott Laughton spent varying amounts of time with the NHL team in 2014-15 before being sent back to the Phantoms), you have to think he’s got it in mind as he’s calling up Morin. Is he prepared to send Morin (or one of the other rookies) back to Lehigh Valley once everyone is healthy, or could another move be coming?
Whatever the case may be there, though, Samuel Morin is a Flyer and all three of the team’s rookie defensemen will likely be in the lineup tomorrow night against the Coyotes. The future is here.