Flyers rookie Morin stating his case

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rookie defenseman Samuel Morin skates toward the puck during the second period of last night's preseason game against the Rangers.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rookie defenseman Samuel Morin skates toward the puck during the second period of last night's preseason game against the Rangers.
Posted: September 19, 2013

SAMUEL MORIN'S accent was thick, but his message was clear.

When the Flyers drafted Morin with the 11th overall pick in June, he said he wanted to arrive in training camp and immediately compete for a job.

Some laughed. The Quebec native's face is still covered by teenage acne, and his lanky, 6-6 frame has hardly begun to fill out. But the Flyers took note.

Training camp is not a week old, yet Morin already took the first step toward reaching his goal yesterday. The Flyers signed Morin to a 3-year, entry-level contract just hours after his impressive debut in Monday's exhibition loss to Washington. Morin will earn a $925,000 base salary in each of the first 3 years, with performance-based bonuses that could push him to $1.425 million per season.

Now, Morin has until Oct. 1 to tackle his next conquest, something many thought was impossible as recently as last week.

"He's an intriguing young man," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We were obviously pretty happy with how he played [Monday]. We're just going to take it a day at a time and see how it goes."

Officially, Holmgren termed Morin's chances of making the team as "a stretch, just because of the numbers we have here," but he isn't exactly ruling it out, either.

The Flyers have kept five 18-year-olds on their opening-night roster over the last 15 years: Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, Luca Sbisa, Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton last season. Of the group, only Sbisa was a defenseman.

Keeping Morin likely would force the Flyers to waive one of their established players. Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and Nick Grossmann appear to be locks. Waiving Bruno Gervais might be the Flyers' only option to avoid subjecting Gustafsson, 24, to waivers.

Yet the Flyers have unique flexibility with Morin (and Laughton) in that they can keep them on the roster to play nine games before being forced to make a decision. Sending either one of them back to junior hockey before playing 10 games would delay the clock ticking on their contracts, leaving all 3 years intact.

It would simply be a matter of finding room on the 23-man roster - which is why no one is ready to rule out Morin quite yet. Coach Peter Laviolette said last week he would be willing to listen if a player made enough noise in camp.

"I think that holds to be true for anybody," Laviolette said when asked about Morin. "You continue to push and play. Ultimately, those will become organizational decisions when it comes to young players."

It is easy to see why the Flyers are intrigued. Morin, wearing No. 55, is a pure presence on the ice. He's also incredibly poised. On Monday, in his first taste of NHL action, he threaded a power-play pass to Vinny Lecavalier. Last night against the Rangers, he never seemed rattled with the puck on his stick. He's played 45 minutes, 36 seconds in his first two games.

It's hard to comprehend exactly how young Morin is, even by pro sports standards. He just turned 18 in July. Baseball's youngest major leaguer, Manny Machado, is 21. The NBA's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist turns 20 on Sept. 26. In the NFL, Amobi Okoye made a splash as a 20-year-old rookie for Houston in 2007. The NHL regularly churns out a full-time 18-year-old.

"He's very sure of himself - not in a bad way, but a good way," Holmgren said. "For a guy that size, I think he gets around the ice really good. His hands are good; his sense is really good.

"And he's a hardworking kid. He's put the time in to train properly. He eats properly already. I remember Chris Pronger, when I had him in Hartford [in 1992] as an 18-year-old, I think he weighed 180 or 185. Sam's already 211 pounds. Who knows what he's going to be when he's done growing."

Even with his contract signed and signing bonus on the way, Morin's perspective is refreshing.

"There are a lot of players who have an NHL contract who have never played in the NHL," Morin said. "I've got to continue working hard."

If he continues to impress, the Flyers might have a welcomed conundrum on their hands.

"We'll just take it one day at a time," Holmgren said. "Any time he can spend here is a bonus, to learn from guys, learn what it takes to be a pro. When the time comes to make our decision, we'll make it."

The Flyers (1-2-1) dropped a 3-2 decision to the visiting Rangers, who will not play a home game in Madison Square Garden until Oct. 28 with the final stages of a $1 billion renovation being completed.

Max Talbot and Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers. Steve Mason started in net and stopped 20 of 23 shots in a full 60 minutes.

Paul Holmgren said the Flyers will trim the roster from 58 to around 26 or 28 players, as training camp shifts tomorrow to Lake Placid, N.Y., for practice and team bonding exercises. Interestingly, Peter Laviolette said the Flyers will see more of what veteran tryout Hal Gill can do "as training camp goes along" . . . New line combination of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Vinny Lecavalier netted five of the Flyers' 18 shots . . . Notable scratches: Nick Grossmann, Brayden Schenn, Tye McGinn, Scott Laughton, Matt Read, Erik Gustafsson, Bruno Gervais, Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen and Nick Cousins.


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