Big Samuel Morin stands tall at blue line


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: Oilers blank Jets to win outdoor Heritage Classic

Best of NHL: Oilers blank Jets to win outdoor Heritage Classic

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Cam Talbot made 31 saves and Mark Letestu scored the first of three second-period goals, lifting the Edmonton Oilers over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday in an outdoor game delayed almost two hours by sunlight melting the ice.

The Heritage Classic victory extended Edmonton's winning streak to three in front of 33,240 at Investors Group Field. Fans wore both Jets and Oilers jerseys to the league's 19th outdoor game.

Zack Kassian had a goal and an assist and Darnell Nurse also scored for Edmonton.

Connor Hellebuyck, who had a tuque attached to his helmet, stopped 29 shots for Winnipeg.

The NHL said the start of the Heritage Classic game was delayed "due to intermittent sunlight on the playing surface" and "in the interest of player safety." (see full recap)

Girardi leads Rangers past Coyotes
NEW YORK -- Dan Girardi scored 1:55 into the third period and New York beat Arizona.

Josh Jooris and J.T. Miller also scored for New York, which has won consecutive games to improve to 4-2-0. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 stops.

Radim Vrbata had both of Arizona's goals, and Louis Domingue made 23 saves. The Coyotes have lost their first four games on a six-game trip since beating Philadelphia in overtime at home to start the season.

Girardi put the Rangers ahead with a slap shot from the right point. The veteran was paired with rookie Brady Skjei in his first game after missing New York's previous three with a strained groin, and Skjei assisted on the goal (see full recap).

Tavares' big night helps Isles defeat Wild
NEW YORK -- John Tavares had two goals and an assist, Johnny Boychuk scored for the second straight game and New York beat Minnesota.

Calvin de Haan, Alan Quine and Thomas Hickey also scored to help New York get its highest scoring total of the year and win for the third time in four home games after opening with two road losses. Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for his first win in two starts this season.

Islanders rookie Anthony Beauvillier had two assists, giving the 19-year-old at least a point in three straight games.

Zach Parise scored twice for Minnesota to top 300 goals for his career, and Nino Niederreiter also scored. Second-string goalie Darcy Kuemper made 27 saves (see full recap).

Ducks hand Canucks 1st regulation loss
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Nick Ritchie scored the tiebreaking goal on a rebound with 8:36 to play, captain Ryan Getzlaf had three assists and Anaheim finally opened its home schedule with a victory over Vancouver.

Andrew Cogliano, Cam Fowler and Corey Perry also scored for the Ducks, who have won two straight after a four-game winless start. John Gibson made 17 saves in the Western Conference's final home opener, thanks to a schedule that forced Anaheim to play in five teams' home debuts this month.

Henrik Sedin scored the tying goal early in the third period for the Canucks, who lost in regulation for the first time this season. Bo Horvat scored a short-handed goal, and Loui Eriksson had two assists (see full recap).

Michael Del Zotto, Scott Laughton return to practice

Michael Del Zotto, Scott Laughton return to practice

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers welcomed two more players out on to the rink for their practice following Saturday’s 6-3 win over Carolina. 

Michael Del Zotto (lower body) and Scott Laughton (lower body) returned to the ice for the first time since suffering injuries within days of each other. Before Sunday’s light practice, Del Zotto and Laughton had skated two consecutive days prior to work on their conditioning. 

“It’s nice to see them back with the group,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. 

Laughton, who injured himself during a training camp practice after losing an edge, was a bit more forward than Del Zotto on when he hopes to return. 

“I would say within the next five to seven days,” Laughton said.

The 22-year-old pointed to Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh as his target to return. 

As for Del Zotto, the defenseman didn’t want to jinx anything, saying it’s a “day-by-day” situation. He would like to think he’s working on the same timetable as Laughton. If that’s the case, he would be back either a few days before or right on cue with the projected four to five weeks he was scheduled to miss after suffering an injury to his left knee in the preseason against the New York Rangers on Oct. 6. 

“It’s kind of trial and error,” Del Zotto said. 

Above all else, though, the two were just happy to be back with their teammates. Del Zotto said that being around everyone really rejuvenated his spirits. 

“Just being back around the guys and having that team chemistry and camaraderie and being able to joke with the guys,” Del Zotto said, “it’s probably been the best thing for me.”

This past month has especially been hard on the two because of the timing and how last season ended for them. 

While there’s never an ideal time to suffer an injury, the pair saw training camp and the approaching start of the regular season in a different light than most of their teammates.

It was supposed to be their new start. Last season, Del Zotto missed the final few months, including the postseason, after ligament damage to his left wrist. He was having a strong preseason, arguably the top defenseman in camp at the time before suffering his setback.

“Being out so long last year and having to sit and watch playoffs than having six months of grueling rehab to get back into it … that made it sting that much more,” Del Zotto said. “That’s part of the game. It’s a contact sport. I signed up for this.”

The same can be said for Laughton, who experienced a scary injury in Game 4 against Washington after being dumped head first into the boards. 

“I was really excited to have camp and start the year here,” Laughton said. 

The two will be traveling to Montreal with the rest of the Flyers for Monday’s contest. They will each do the morning skate with another bag skate afterward.