Flyers take 6-6 defenseman with their top pick

Defenseman Samuel Morin stands with Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren (right) after being chosen 11th overall in the first round of the NHL draft. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
Defenseman Samuel Morin stands with Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren (right) after being chosen 11th overall in the first round of the NHL draft. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
Posted: July 02, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. - The Flyers bypassed two much higher-rated defensemen Sunday when they selected towering Sam Morin with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft at the Prudential Center.

They made the right choice, Morin said.

"I'm going to be a very great player," Morin said after he became just the fourth defenseman the Flyers had chosen in the first round since 1988.

If the late blooming, 6-foot-6, 202-pounder's talent matches his confidence, he will be a star.

"I've got a really hard shot. I'm tough. I can fight anyone," the Montreal native said.

Morin is raw but emerging. Known as a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman, he improved his offense with Rimouski Oceanic as the season progressed in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, helping him climb the draft charts. He returned from a broken collarbone and had seven points in six playoff games last season.

"Plays tough. Plays mean," said Chris Pronger, who did some scouting for the Flyers this season.

International Scouting Services had Morin ranked as the draft's 32d-best prospect, well behind defensemen Nikita Zadorov (rated No. 8) and Ryan Pulock (No. 14). Central Scouting had him ranked as the 23d North American skater, up from No. 76 at midseason.

"They're all good players, but this is just a guy we liked better," said general manager Paul Holmgren, whose team drafted mobile defenseman Robert Hagg in the second round (41st overall). Hagg actually was rated at No. 31, one slot ahead of Morin, by International Scouting Services.

Morin said it was a "perfect match" being picked by the Flyers. "I'm rough, and they like tough guys."

Said Holmgren: "He has tremendous size, and for a big guy, he moves around very well. He's got a good stick, and his puck skills have continued to get better."

A lefthanded shooter, Morin said he was thrilled to be in the same organization with Pronger, the future Hall of Famer whose career was ended by a concussion. Pronger was working with the Flyers' brass at the draft, and he shook Morin's hand at the podium.

Pronger has always been his idol, Morin said.

Morin, who will turn 18 on July 12, said it was amazing "just being in Philadelphia with Chris Pronger, a guy I want to play like, a tough guy, a two-way defenseman."

Added Morin: "I like Chris Pronger, but I'm Sam Morin. I will play my game."

Morin, who had 30 of his friends and relatives travel from Quebec to attend the draft, said his goal is to make the Flyers out of training camp. While that seems far-fetched - defensemen generally take a while to develop - forwards Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton earned roster spots in the last two camps after being drafted in the first round.

"I want to make noise," Morin said when asked about his first training camp. ". . . I'm not going there to watch skating."

Holmgren said Morin would have a learning curve.

"It'd be a stretch to say he's [NHL-] ready," he said. "But you can't draft for readiness. By his long-term projections, our guys liked him."

Defensemen Luca Sbisa, the last Flyers defenseman chosen in the first round before Sunday, made the team in 2008 after being drafted that June.

International Scouting Services called Morin an "intriguing" prospect who "could be a stud if he puts it all together" but noted that he "isn't as physically imposing or dominant as he should be to the outside."

Morin said he also idolized Sidney Crosby while growing up. He was reminded that Crosby was despised by Philadelphia fans.

"When I play against him, I'm going to be tough on him like I am every player on the ice," he said.

This year, Morin had four goals, 14 assists, and 117 penalty minutes in 46 games. He had a plus-10 rating.

Pronger said he liked Morin's makeup but kidded that the youngster does not yet have the sarcastic bite that he perfected.

"We'll teach him that," Pronger cracked. "That's an acquired trait."

Breakaways. Next year's draft will be held in Philadelphia for the first time. It will go back to a two-day format and will be held June 27-28. . . . Free agency starts Friday, and teams can begin talking to prospective free agents on Wednesday. Those free agents who were compliance buyouts are already allowed to talk with teams.

Flyers Draft Picks

First round (No. 11 overall): D

Sam Morin, 6-foot-6, 202 pounds.

Second round (41): D Robert Hagg, 6-2, 204.

Third round (72): LW Tyrell Goulbourne, 5-10, 191.

Fifth round (132): D Terrance Amorosa, 6-1, 185.

Sixth round (162): G Merrick Madsen, 6-4, 177.

Seventh round: (192): D David Drake, 6-3, 155.

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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