What Does Sam Morin Bring To Lehigh Valley?

Samuel Morin, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Samuel Morin, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

When I sat down to my Lehigh Valley Phantoms season preview for this year, one ultimate question popped into my mind. With how close proximity Allentown to Philadelphia is, could we see Taxi Squad shuffling throughout the year with players that are on two-way deals. Well Flyers dropped the answer to my question yesterday by moving around some pieces of the Taxi Squad.

GM Chuck Fletcher has made it official winger Sam Morin will begin the season with Lehigh Valley. The corresponding move was that Connor Bunnaman has been recalled from the Taxi Squad for now. Nobody was recalled from the Phantoms to replace that Taxi Squad spot as of yet.

The Flyers Taxi Squad currently stands at 4 which hits the minimum number of players you can have. Those players being Andy Andreoff, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman and Nate Prosser. I’d expect at least two or one player to go up the Taxi Squad no earlier than Friday and no later than Saturday, leaving forwards on the Phantoms some playing time chipping that number down to 17 or 16.

I have absolutely no idea if Morin will play in tonight’s only pre-season game for the Phantoms tonight but one would assume that he will be in the lineup on the Phantoms season opener at Hershey on Saturday. He was with the Taxi Squad skating everyday with them and still getting as much reps in as possible.

But there is a huge difference between practice shape and game shape. You’d have to think this was the plan all along for GM Chuck Fletcher and Phantoms GM Brett Flahr. Have Sam on the Taxi Squad in case of an injury where he was absolutely needed and there were times where it was a close call if he’d suit up for the Flyers before the AHL season began. Then send him down to Lehigh Valley to begin the season.

I stated in my debut article that I’m all for second chances. Although I’m a bit surprised he wasn’t sent down before Phantoms Training Camp began on January 25th. Morin has already cleared waivers this season so that’s not a problem. With Morin now on the Phantoms roster the forward core number stands at 19. 19? yes, that’s a lot of forwards that head coach Scott Gordon will have to shuffle around but one guy that won’t be sitting is the 25 year old.

Now it’s tough to see where Morin will fit in or what his projected role or minutes will be but I think that the Phantoms coaching staff will ease into Sam’s transition at left-wing. In reality he hasn’t even played a meaningful game or against another opponent yet for that matter in his new position so I expect some transitioning.

My thinking is personally they will try him out in all aspects of game situations. This includes putting him in Top 9 and Top 6 roles for games, four on four, maybe the power-play and most definitely the penalty kill. With the games not really mattering this season in the AHL, It’s important to keep in mind to try all new things out to help develop each and every ones game this season.

Moving from the blue line to now inside the circle your entire game changes. Why is Morin playing left wing and not right? The general advice is that if you shoot left you play left, and vice-versa for the right. There are some clear advantages to this approach, but there are also good reasons—particularly for forwards—to try playing on the opposite side.

There aren’t particularly major massive changes to Morin moving to defense to left wing but there are a couple key changes: Morin when playing defense spent the majority of his time in the defensive zone, he was playing on his strong side which in return allows Sam to better position himself to clear the puck out of his respected teams end. This is especially important for defensemen, who want to maximize the amount of control they have when the puck is in a dangerous space.

What hasn’t changed from defense to playing as a winger is the concept. In the defensive zone, a key role of the winger is to help move the puck up ice. What Sam will have to get used to is breaking out of his own zone. Morin hasn’t had much experience with his backhand and Wingers who play the off wing have to receive the same pass on their backhand; this is a tricky skill to master, which can weaken the breakout. To offset that, the winger on the off wing should put their back to the boards to receive the pass.

Morin hasn’t played in the AHL since March 11th of last season He had a brief stint coming off a pair of torn ACLs in a span of 19 months. The former defenseman got some reps in before COVID rocked the entire world. Now it’s also super important to note, with a cap hit of $700,000, Sam even though 25, isn’t an AHL veteran by the rulebooks. The veteran rule states that you are considered one if you’ve played 260 professional games.

Between the six years in the AHL and five in the NHL, he’s only played a total of 180 games. Sam started the season in Allentown since his rookie campaign in 2015-16 hockey season where that year he posted 19 points (4G, 15A) in 76 games. Being a so called “older guy” on this Lehigh Valley roster not only can he bring more depth to this squad and boy oh boy does Lehigh Valley have a ton of it, which isn’t such a bad thing, he can show the ropes and ease all the teenagers playing in their first professional season who weren’t thinking they’d be in the AHL to start the season.

Here’s to a fantastic comeback story and maybe a return to the Flyers for Morin to register his first NHL point or score his first career goal this season.