PHILADELPHIA – The defenseman used his stick to poke the puck away from his opponent. He then used his big frame to ward off two other players from taking it back from him.
He then spun, head up the whole time, and found an open teammate across the ice with a perfect pass for a one-timer goal.
Oh… and the defenseman was playing in his first professional game. And yeah, he’s only 18, so there’s that too.
“I would have just dumped the puck in and looked to the bench for a change,” said Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere. “That’s what surprised me about him– just how confident he is.”
He was, of course, referring to Samuel Morin, the defenseman who was a first round pick of the Flyers (no. 11 overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
There were a lot of reasons the Flyers liked him. His size, his grit, his poke check, his speed – considering his size.
But there was never talk about his offensive game. They would only say, “it’s coming,” or that it was a “work in progress.”
And while that is still most definitely an apt description of Morin’s offensive game, there he was Monday, making his debut in an NHL preseason game, playing all situations – including significant time on the power play – and providing offense.
“He was really composed out there tonight with the puck, that’s the thing that jumped out at me,” said Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube after watching his team lose 4-3 in a shootout to Washington. “Playing in his first exhibition game in the NHL, I thought he was tremendous. He did some really nice things with the puck, hanging onto it and not panicking, looked good on the power play.
“He made a nice play to Vinny (Lecavalier) for a goal there on the power play, but all in all he was very composed out there tonight.”
When watching preseason hockey, these are the little things you look for. Do rookies look comfortable? Are any players developing chemistry with one another? Does someone have a surprise chance to make the team?
While Morin earning a spot on the team is a longshot, it remains his targeted goal – for this season, not just down the road.
“I’m here to try to make the team for sure,” Morin said. “Right now every game is an experience for me, but yes, I’m here to make a good impression and to try to get a contract.
“Since the beginning of camp I felt like I could play with these guys. I’ve made good progress since the beginning and I’ve had a good camp so far. I’m just going to work hard and see what happens.”
Morin’s chances still remain pretty long to make the Flyers out of camp, but with each day he impresses more and more people and it becomes harder and harder to send him back to his junior team in Rimouski.
“You can tell right away [that he’s got NHL capability],” said Lecavalier. “He’s strong. Usually 18-year-olds come in and they’re not ready. But with Sam you can tell he’s got a strong stick and how he hits guys. He’s making plays out there that are kind of rare. With his size and toughness and with what he can bring to the table, he’s going to have a very long career.”
Sbisa was the only defenseman though, and the Flyers were in a little more desperate of a situation in need of a player of his type.
That’s not the case this time around. This time the Flyers have several defensive options of similar style to Morin.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t still open some eyes.
“For a big guy he can move,” said Couturier. “He can skate and he moves the puck pretty well. Nice play made on Vinny’s one timer there. You can see he has talent. He’s a promising young kid.”
So says the 20-year-old.
If anyone knows what Morin is going through it’s Couturier, who was the surprise of the 2011-12 training camp and made the team as an 18-year-old. So, he decided to offer Morin some quality advice so he doesn’t get caught off guard thinking about what ifs.
“We went for lunch [Monday] and I told him to just have fun and even he was surprised to still be here,” Couturier said. “And I told him to just take it one day at a time. That’s what I did when I was 18 and I stayed around longer than I thought and everything will work out in the right way.”
No matter if it’s sooner… or later.
The goal scorers for the Flyers in the preseason loss were Jake Voracek, Vinny Lecavalier and Jason Akeson…. Ray Emery played the entire game and made 29 saves in defeat… The Flyers lost in the shootout when none of their four shooters could beat Caps goalie David Leggio… Wayne Simmonds took two penalties on the same play then got an extra penalty for unsportmanlike conduct, making the Flyers shorthanded for six minutes…. With Peter Laviolette coaching the split squad in Toronto, Craig Berube took over as the bench boss for one game.
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