Choosing Morin a motion for the defense

BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES Samuel Morin puts on jersey while flanked by GM Paul Homgren (left) and assistant GM John Paddock.
BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES Samuel Morin puts on jersey while flanked by GM Paul Homgren (left) and assistant GM John Paddock. (puts on jersey while flanked by GM Paul Homgren (left) and assistant GM John Paddock.)
Posted: July 02, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. - It was a moment of pure ecstasy, uncontrollable excitement, happiness and a tinge of nerves.

By the time Sam Morin had finished hugging his parents, waving to his entourage of 30 in the crowd, and making his way to the stage at Prudential Center, he shook his idol Chris Pronger's hand and was at a loss for words.

"I just said hi," Morin said with his thick, Quebec accent. "Just to meet him is very special. It was the best moment of my life."

Scouting for the Flyers in one of the deepest drafts for defensemen in recent memory, Pronger introduced himself to Morin and congratulated him 20 years after experiencing the same thrill.

"I should have said, 'Keep your head up, kid,' " Pronger joked.

That's because critics were already questioning Morin as the Flyers' 11th overall selection yesterday, saying the 6-6 monster defender was taken too early with too many good names left on the board. Morin was the 23rd-ranked North American skater, according to NHL Central Scouting, not even accounting for European talent.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren wasn't buying any of that - he watched Morin play personally. No player in the Top 50 shot up the rankings as quickly as Morin did since the middle of last season.

"Samuel has come a long way in a short period of time," Holmgren said. "He's ultracompetitive. He skates well. He's got great range, obviously. Pretty good understanding of the game. And his puck skills have gotten so much better in not a long period of time.

"I think he's a very good prospect. He's got a chance to really blossom over the next year or 2."

For the Flyers, yesterday's seven-round marathon - crammed into 1 day for the first time in 6 years because of the 119-day lockout - was about restocking a barren defensive cupboard. Four of the Flyers' six picks were defensemen.

And the Flyers have high hopes for Morin. The 17-year-old isn't known as an offensive defenseman, but his late-season point surge is what helped push him up the rankings.

Morin finished with 16 points in 46 regular-season games with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He missed the final month of the season with a fractured collarbone but rebounded to net six points in seven playoff games. Morin then went to Sochi, Russia, and helped Canada to a gold medal at the Under-17 World Championships.

Some consider Morin to be the prototypical Flyer. He had 117 penalty minutes in just 46 games.

"I think it's the perfect match," Morin said. "I'm tough and they like tough guys. I'm tough. I can fight anyone. I think I'm more of a defensive defenseman, but I'm working on my offensive side. I have a very hard shot. I think for my size, I skate pretty well. But I want to improve that, too."

Morin, who hails from a town of 4,700 near Quebec City, grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan. He said some say he reminds them of Ivan Drago from "Rocky IV."

"He's a big, strong kid," Pronger said. "Plays tough. Plays mean. Good feet for a big man. I wouldn't characterize him as a power-play quarterback. That being said, nothing beats a good outlet pass that helps the transition game and allows you to get on the attack faster.

"The maturation process from where he was at the beginning of the year to where he's been trending intrigued a lot of the scouts and people that have been watching him."

Morin said he needs to add weight this summer. He is currently 210 pounds but would like to get to 230 or even 240, noting that he's "always growing."

The Flyers have rarely missed in the first round, especially with players from Quebec. There is a famous story about Quebec-based scout Simon Nolet jumping up and down 7 years ago for a player named Claude Giroux.

Sean Couturier, Simon Gagne and Giroux are just a few of the players Nolet has pushed to draft recently.

"Simon Nolet and Todd Hearty spent a lot of time following Sam around," Holmgren said. "They're very excited that we were able to draft him."

Holmgren said he would "hate to put the Pronger tag" on Morin, a player Morin said he modeled his game after long before he knew he'd become a Flyer. He was interviewed by 29 of the NHL's 30 teams at the combine in Toronto last month.

"I want him to be his own man," Pronger said. "He can take pieces from a lot of different players and become a more complete player."

The Flyers' last two first-round picks, Couturier (No. 8 in 2011) and Scott Laughton (No. 21 in 2012), were in the Opening Night lineups just months after being drafted. Holmgren said he thinks it's a stretch to think Morin will do the same, given the Flyers' expensive logjam ahead of Morin and the fact that defensemen usually just take longer to develop. But, Holmgren said he "will never say never." The point of drafting a defenseman, though, is for the Flyers to have patience with his development, something Holmgren acknowledged.

"I'm going to go to camp and I want to make noise," Morin said. "I don't mind another season in the 'Q,' but I'm going to go to camp and compete and do everything I can. I'm not going to come to camp just to watch skating."


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