Part 2: A look at Flyers prospect Samuel Morin

ASSOCIATED PRESS Defenseman Samuel Morin was the Flyers' first-round draft choice in 2013 who is playing for his junior team.Observers believe he has talent, but is a work in progress.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Defenseman Samuel Morin was the Flyers' first-round draft choice in 2013 who is playing for his junior team.Observers believe he has talent, but is a work in progress.
Posted: February 27, 2014

Second of two parts

BOISBRIAND, Quebec - In NHL scouting circles, one of the phrases often kicked around is that an up-and-coming player needs to "find his chair."

The figure of speech originates from chairs in an orchestra, where key members are sprinkled around the room in different roles, ultimately working in unison to produce a harmony.

In the hockey world, players sit in different chairs within an organization, expected to fulfill different roles in order to help the team win.

Samuel Morin, the Flyers' intimidating first-round pick selected 11th overall last summer at the age of 17, is searching for his chair. Will he be a shutdown defender? Will Morin become a puck-moving defenseman with an offensive flair? Or will he end up a hybrid, a blend of both?

When you talk to those connected to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, who have seen Morin the most, those questions remain unanswered.

But the fact that Morin, who plays for the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, already has displayed the raw capability to do any one of those things in his three QMJHL seasons at the blue line makes him one of the most intriguing prospects in all of junior hockey. That's simply because any guess as to what he might become 4 years from now is an exercise in futility.

"We all see him as a really good prospect in this league," Blainville-Boisbriand general manager Joel Bouchard told the Daily News last weekend. "He's got a lot of potential, I think that is the key word. How it's going to turn out 4, 5, 6 years from now when I turn on my television? I don't know. No one knows. He's got a good package.

"He could end up as a No. 2 [defenseman] in the NHL. He could end up as a No. 6. It all depends."

Bouchard, 40, knows what he is watching. He played 364 NHL games and is a part of Blainville-Boisbriand's ownership group. Bouchard has seen hundreds of junior hockey games, yet few players - in a league filled with smaller, more skilled skaters - come along with the physical attributes of Morin.

On this night, Morin was a beast on the boards against Bouchard's Armada - a team above Rimouski in the standings. He killed off all 2 minutes of a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the third period to seal a win, made space in front of the net scarce, picked up an assist and pounded four hard shots on net.

"The first thing I look at is the size and the ability to move for a big man who is still developing," Bouchard said. "There is definitely something there."

Junior hockey scouts concede Morin was not the safest pick at No. 11 for the Flyers last June. There were other junior hockey players, at various positions, who were more polished and ready to play in the big league sooner. They are much easier, cleaner to project.

Yet, the Flyers took a longer view with Morin, a defenseman with a much higher ceiling. His brief flashes of brilliance in games make scouts giddy with excitement.

"All these months later, I'm still surprised the Flyers took a guy like Samuel Morin that high," said one NHL Eastern Conference scout, perched up in the corner of Palais des Sports Leopold-Drolet in Sherbrooke on Saturday afternoon for a game between the Oceanic and the host Phoenix.

The longtime scout asked to remain nameless, since he did not have permission from his organization to speak publicly about another team's property.

"Philadelphia usually wants a guy that is NHL-ready, someone they can count on now," the scout said. "The NHL is a results business. Morin may bring real results, but it won't be right now. It's easy to see why they wanted him. You cannot buy his kind of size."

The scout is right that the Flyers have not recently demonstrated the kind of patience usually required to develop a defenseman like Morin. The only homegrown defenseman the Flyers have groomed in the last decade is Marc-Andre Bourdon (2008 draft), whose career is again at an unfortunate crossroads with concussion issues.

With Morin, a lack of patience is not an option. To become a more complete player, especially offensively, he needs to play meaningful power-play minutes - something Rimouski hasn't been able to consistently offer him.

Morin can skate, his hands are better than average, and he has one of the hardest shots in the QMJHL. He is learning how to move with the puck to open shooting lanes, one thing noticeable when he had six attempts blocked in his first Flyers preseason game.

He needs repetition to put it all together. A player like Zdeno Chara, only a couple inches bigger, took nearly five NHL seasons to become an offensive contributor.

"Defense is a growing-pain position," Bouchard said. "He just needs mileage. He's got the attributes. He's got the passion to succeed. With the physical capability, when you add the mileage in, everything comes around. He can turn out to be a pretty good package. He's got to grow his game.

"As much as we like to teach [as coaches], he's got to figure it out on his own and by experience. There must be growing pains - especially because he is so tall. He needs to grow into his own body and figure it out."

Morin's coach in Rimouski, Serge Beausoleil, called him a "masterpiece." If true, Morin is one growing with each game, or note. For the Flyers, stewards in pulling that masterpiece out of Morin, the key will not be rushing him to center stage for a solo.

"I think this year has been a really good learning experience for him," Bouchard said. "He will play in the NHL. He has a chair, for sure. I just don't know what that chair is."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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