With the Flyers having lost defenseman Mark Friedman on waivers to Pittsburgh last month, it appears Samuel Morin’s future with the organization is back where it started – on the blue line.
Morin, 25, was converted to a left winger this season – he played there in four games with the Flyers – but has been used on defense for the AHL’s Phantoms in his last five games. Four of them were because injuries caused a shortage of defensemen, but he was used on D in his last game even though Lehigh Valley had enough healthy bodies that he could have gone back to left wing.
The Flyers’ first-round selection (11th overall) in the 2013 draft, Morin is plus-3 in those five games on defense. All told, he has played six games for the Phantoms and has a pair of assists.
Morin, whose career has been interrupted by numerous injuries over the years, will be on defense Wednesday when the Phantoms play visiting Hershey, Lehigh Valley coach Scott Gordon said.
Gordon said the organization hasn’t firmly decided yet if Morin will remain on defense, his natural position.
“He’s getting better every game and obviously he feels more comfortable there,” Gordon said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think he feels like he makes more contributions on defense than at forward.”
For those wanting the Flyers to recall the physical, 6-foot-7, 230-pound Morin, Gordon said it “won’t hurt him” to play more AHL games after missing so much time because of injuries.
“He’s starting to get more comfortable playing [lots of] minutes and getting the feeling back for the different types of pressure you get on defense,” Gordon said. “Just the habit things he’s done his whole life, he’s getting them back now. The hardness to his game, the intimidation to his game, those things have been there. I’ll tell you, it’s so noticeable. I’m sure every [opposing] player that goes on the ice and sees him out there is wishing his shift was over and they could go against someone else.”
The Phantoms are off to an 8-2-2 start.
“These young players have been impressive,” Gordon said.
Wingers Zayde Wisdom, 18, and Tyson Foerster, 19, are among those players. Both are underage for the AHL but are allowed to play for the Phantoms because their OHL season hasn’t started.
Wisdom has six goals and 10 points in 13 games, and Foerster, who missed some games earlier in the season because of a shin fracture, has two goals in seven games.
“At the start of the year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Gordon said. “I thought maybe we’d be plugging them into different spots in the lineup, maybe they would alternate games. … We had a pretty long camp and they got some time to maybe get rid of some junior habits. I felt they didn’t really skate. They kind of got to spots and stood there and waited for passes. We were asking them to keep their feet moving and they both have responded really well.”
Now, Gordon said, “they have stopped thinking and started reacting – and you could see the skill come out. Both have great shots and can make plays. Zayde is 18, but physically he’s as strong as any 25-year-old we have on the team. Both have come in and have contributed and have not looked out of place.”
Gordon said forwards Tanner Laczynski (six points in 10 games) and Wade Allison (two goals in two games) are making progress since returning from injuries, and “both are so much physically stronger than you usually see in a first-year [pro] player because of playing in college and the amount of time they spent in the gym during the college season. They’re men. They’re heavy players and they don’t get pushed around and they have great shots.”
The Flyers used the same lines and pairings in back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday for the first time since Games 1 and 2 of the season. ... Defenseman Justin Braun: “Teams always have tough stretches; it’s how you come out of it.”