Just when Samuel Morin finally got healthy and was ready to challenge for a spot in the Flyers’ regular defensive rotation ...
The Flyers went out and acquired veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun in the offseason, pushing Morin down on the depth chart.
Sorry, big guy.
Actually, Niskanen was traded for another veteran defenseman, Radko Gudas, so it was the addition of Braun that could cost Morin a spot in the top six.
Morin, a happy-go-lucky 6-foot-7, 230-pounder, insists he was not disappointed that the Flyers added some experienced defensemen. In fact, he thought they were needed.
“It was good news for our D corps,” he said recently as he prepared for the start of the Flyers’ main training camp Friday. “We need a little more structure and I think those guys are going to bring that. They’re veterans and they’ve played in the playoffs, and Niskanen won a Stanley Cup.”
Morin, 24, selected in the first round (11th overall) of the 2013 draft, believes the next few weeks will be critical to his future.
“If I want to have any chance at the NHL, I think I have to have a pretty solid camp,” said Morin, who stayed in the area all summer and trained at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees. “I want to play in the NHL and I want to show the coach and the GM in preseason that I’m ready to go.”
Even if he does have a strong camp, Morin is in a difficult position. Ditto Robert Hagg, who was a regular last season.
With Gudas traded, Morin and Hagg are probably the Flyers’ most physical defensemen. Still, barring an injury, the top six is expected to look like this: Ivan Provorov (assuming he signs) and Niskanen; Travis Sanheim and Braun; and Shayne Gostisbehere and Phil Myers.
Myers will have to fight for his spot, but based on his showing late last season and hints dropped by general manager Chuck Fletcher, he is favored to land on the third pairing.
That is, unless Morin and Hagg wow the brass at camp.
“I’m excited about camp,” Morin said. “I don’t know if it’s do-or-die for me, but obviously I need to have a good camp. I know my body a little more now and know what I can do and what I can’t do, and I think I’m going to be even more ready. I have to be more careful with my body. I can’t stay on the ice [at practice] like I used to when I was younger. I used to be on the ice all the time and training in the gym a lot. Now with all the surgeries… I have to be smart about it.”
It appears Morin, Hagg, and Myers will battle for the last spot. If Myers wins it, Morin and Hagg will probably be kept as extras because the Flyers don’t figure to risk losing them on waivers by trying to send them to the Phantoms.
“There’s just six spots in the lineup. I don’t know how many they’re going to carry, but I want to play,” said Morin, who appeared in five late-season games with the Flyers last season after rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. “I don’t want to be in the stands all the time. But who knows? There could be injuries. A lot of stuff can happen. That’s what training camp is for. Go out there and compete. … I’m keeping a positive attitude about it.”
Overcoming a slew of injuries (knee, hip) will make it more satisfying when/if Morin does become a regular.
“Obviously I’ve had so much bad luck, but I know I can play in this league,” he said. “I played five games last year against pretty good teams – and before that, I was out all year. I don’t know if a lot of guys can do that. I did it. I’m really proud of myself. I worked hard all summer and I’m ready.”
When he wasn’t in the gym or on the ice, Morin was checking out restaurants in Philly.
Buddakan is his favorite.
“I really like their calamari salad,” he said. “I’m a big food guy.”