ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Samuel Morin is going to be an NHL regular someday, maybe sooner than later, and if his play on the ice matches his attitude, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to have a perennial all-star defenseman.
In the preseason, the 6-foot-7, 227-pound Morin played with physicality and discipline, showed a reach with his stick that seemed to stretch from Ocean City to Cape May, and even scored a goal.
He did earn a spot with the Flyers but only as an insurance policy because they started the season on the West Coast with were questions about Shayne Gostisbehere’s health. Morin didn’t play in the season-opening, four-game road trip and was then sent to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Clearly, the Flyers didn’t want three unproven players in their defensive rotation. Rookies Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim also had impressive camps, so Morin, 22, went to Lehigh Valley, and he didn’t complain.
And he didn’t complain this month, either, after the Flyers bypassed a chance to recall him when Andrew MacDonald suffered a leg injury that will sideline him for at least four weeks.
“I’m getting a lot of ice time, and the team is playing pretty good. It’s fun,” Morin said before his dominating performance in the Phantoms’ 3-2 overtime win Wednesday over Springfield. “It’s fun to play again, that’s for sure.”
Morin always seems to be smiling as he speaks, always seems to look at the bright side of things.
Even those four games with the Flyers in which he was a healthy scratch.
“First, I was happy to be on that trip. I think I deserved it, too. I think I had a pretty good camp,” he said in his thick French-Canadian accent.
When he went to the Phantoms, one of the first texts he received came from MacDonald, who gave him words of encouragement.
“He’s a really good guy, a really good leader,” Morin said.
Entering the weekend, the Flyers had not recalled another defenseman to replace MacDonald, opting to put Brandon Manning in the lineup.
Morin didn’t sulk.
“I know I can play in the NHL,” he said, “but right now, I’m here and in the present. It’s still a real good league here, and I need to prove I’m a real good player and prove every game I belong in the NHL.”
Every practice and every game, I need to get better.”
The situation, Morin said, is “not something I can really control. I know I’m going to make it, and when I get there, I want to stay there.”
Morin’s support team starts with his parents, Pascal and Sylvie. He calls them after each game, and he talked to them after he was sent to the Phantoms.
He vented briefly.
“For sure, it was really disappointing for me. I was like, ‘What’s going on? Why can’t I get my chance?’ “ he said of the phone conversation. “But you know what? If I play well here, for sure I think I’ll get my chance.”
His parents live in Quebec City and have traveled down to Allentown to watch some games. Most of the games they watch on live stream.
GALLERY: Flyers annual Trial on the Isle signing event
The Flyers annual Trial on the Isle signing event was at Stone Harbor Elementary School. They held a mini session at the school, teaching kids about hockey also inside the school's gym, the players sat at tables while fans came in and received autographs from each of them. July 12, 2017 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)
His dad played hockey, but never professionally.
“He was born on a farm and was more of a hard worker. I think he quit hockey when he was 16,” Morin said. “He’s 6-foot. Just a normal guy.”
Morin let out a contagious laugh, something that punctuates most of his sentences.
“And my mom is 5-6. I guess I get it (his height) from my grandfather,” he said. “He was around 6-3. He was the tallest one before me.”
In his first six games with the Phantoms this season, Morin had a goal, three assists, and a plus-4 rating. Surprisingly, his long layoff while he was with the Flyers didn’t make him rusty. Working with Flyers assistant Gord Murphy helped.
“Murph was always telling me at practice, ‘Play like it’s a game,’ “ Morin said. “I really focused on being real intense, so when I came down here, I was ready.”
Morin says that his offensive production thus far is “just a bonus” and that he is focusing on his defense. In Wednesday’s win, he broke up several plays with his long reach, prevented a two on one, helped shut down Springfield’s power play, cleared the net in front of goalie Alex Lyon, and won a fight.
In other words, a typical blue-collar night for him.
“From the halfway point of last year, he’s found a level of consistency that’s allowed him to know, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do this — X, Y and Z — to be successful,” Phantoms coach Scott Gordon said.
That consistency has Morin thisclose to becoming an NHL regular on a defensive unit that one day will be the Flyers’ calling card.