Big Samuel Morin stands tall at blue line

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Big Samuel Morin stands tall at blue line

The collision came on the side boards during Tuesday’s final day of the Flyers' development camp at the Skate Zone.

Prospect Samuel Morin, a 6-foot-7 defenseman, tangled with Travis Sanheim, the Flyers' first-round pick from last month’s draft.

This was a drill involving all the defensemen.

Both went down hard. Both got up slowly.

For a split-second it must have been like déjà vu for Morin, who ruptured his left Achilles' tendon last spring when a much smaller (relatively speaking) player tumbled onto him after a board check.

“No, no, no, not like that,” Morin said, starting to laugh. “When I got injured, I hit the guy. It was a rebound off the boards and he fell on me.

“I don’t know what happened here. I try to go in front of the guy and I fell. I wasn’t scared what happened [Tuesday]. It’s part of the game.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future we’re going to see regular collisions like the one we saw this week at camp involving Morin.

Except he’ll be expected to crush the other guy.

Morin, who turned 19 during this camp, has packed 224 pounds onto his 6-foot-7 frame. He's a man hiding inside a youngster’s body. And a monster, too.

“I trained hard,” he said of a three-year growth cycle that saw him add three inches in height and 51 pounds of muscle. He was 173 pounds in his first year of junior.

Let’s go back for a moment to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs this past spring. In the series finale, Morin, playing for Rimouski, slammed Blainville-Brosbriand’s Philippe Sanche into the boards.

There was a ricochet effect no one anticipated. Morin tumbled backwards and Sanche fell across his skate boot.

“A 5-foot-4 guy injured me,” Morin said incredulously. “I hit the guy … rebound … He sat on me. I did two shifts and then I could not play again.”

Soon after, Morin was sitting in the Flyers' press box watching the Rangers series with an enormous cast on his foot.

This camp was a test to see about Morin’s total recovery on his first attempt back on the ice. No issues with his skating, foot pain or anything. He’s fully healthy and ready for junior play this fall.

Needless to say, a relief to the Flyers.

“From last year to this year, you can tell he got a lot bigger,” said Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of scouting. “He’s more confident. He’s making progress.”

Kjell Samuelsson, who is director of development for all defensive prospects, worked with Morin last season, teaching him the defensive aspects of stick play.

That Samuelsson was very much like him as a player –- tall (6-6) with an enormous wingspan -- made it easier for Morin to grasp what he was being taught.

How ironic, however, that Morin feels the biggest improvement in his overall game from being drafted a year ago was his offensive play -- seven goals, 31 points -- not defensive.

“I think my play with the puck, my passes, my offensive game is better than it was last year,” he said. “My shot. I think I improved a lot things. My skating, too.”

The Flyers love his get-it-done attitude.

“He’s got the right frame of mind and the right attitude to make himself continually get better,” Pryor said.

Morin is in no hurry to make the NHL roster. He said he’ll pay his dues as long as the organization feels it’s necessary.

Here’s where it gets tricky. He is very different than Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg. As such, he really isn’t competing against them directly to make the roster.

He will be a true defensive defenseman, hopefully mean and nasty like Pronger with power-play attributes.

That makes him a bit of a specialist for one spot on the roster, whereas other defensive prospects are competing for similar spots among themselves.

Samuelsson shakes his head when he talks about Morin.

“Size, wingspan,” Samuelsson said. “We need to let him develop at his own speed.”

The Flyers would like Morin to play the right point instead of the left a bit more often. Morin is left-handed.

“I play more on the left side, for sure, but on the power play I play on the right side,” he said. “Like all left-handed defensemen, I like to play on the left side.”

Morin could be with the Phantoms next spring when his junior season ends.

“I'll go step by step right now and make a good impression,” Morin said. “It’s a process. I'm gonna listen to what the coaches and what [Ron Hextall] tell me. I’ve got to accept that.”

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”