PHILADELPHIA – There are some who thought Samuel Morin might someday be the second coming of Chris Pronger.
Tall, strong, mobile with a bit of an attitude.
And that Pronger comparison might come true someday.
But everything was put on hold when the dreaded ACL monster hit on May 9, as Morin tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first period of an epic Phantoms’ five-overtime playoff game against Charlotte.
He had surgery on the affected right leg two weeks later and has been mending ever since.
So Thursday was a fairly monumental day for the 23-year-old defenseman, who skated for the first time with the Flyers during a morning skate prior to the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center.
The 2013 first-round (11th overall) draft pick said he made it through the workout without any setbacks.
If all continues to go well, he’s expected to return to full-blown hockey action sometime around February.
“First practice with the team and I felt great,’’ the 6-foot-7 Morin said. “I’m excited. I see a doctor tonight and we’re going to know more.
“But for sure I’m going in the right direction right now.’’
Morin said he’s not limited in what he can do from a skating standpoint. Full contact will have to wait a while.
He’s been limited over the past two seasons by injury, including a problem with a “Psoas muscle’’ (hip flexor).
“It’s good to be back with the boys,’’ he said. “I can’t wait to hit someone.’’
Is it unrealistic to think Morin could make an appearance on the Flyers later in the year, especially if there happens to be a couple of injuries on the big roster?
“I’m the same player I was (pre-injury), maybe even better,’’ he said. “All the games I watched I tried to learn as much as I can. Just try to have a good attitude.’’
Which hasn’t been easy, given all the bad luck he’s been handed.
“What a year last year,’’ he said. “Even (head trainer) Jimmy McCrossin said he had never seen that before. . .the bad luck.
“(President Paul) Holmgren told me right after I tore my ACL, he told me I’m going to be stronger than ever mentally,’’ Morin said.
Morin said he has spoken to players such as Shayne Gostisbehere, who also tore his ACL a few years back. It always helps to consult with guys who have been through it for tips on rehab, etc.
“He’s been great with me,’’ Morin said. “I called him right away after the surgery. I was really down. He said I’m in good hands here with McCrossin, Dr. Peter DeLuca who did the surgery.
“And I got great support from the team with that three-year deal (this past June, three years, total of $2.1 million). That was good for me mentally. They believe in me that I’m going to be back. They know what kind of player I am and the attitude I have.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol smiled when asked about seeing Morin back on the ice again.
“We joked over the past few days he had become the assistant goalie coach,’’ Hakstol said. “I think this is good for him mentally, to get out there and be part of a short team skate. It’s a good step for him.
“Still a long road for him to go but it’s a good step and we’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.’’
Van Riemsdyk looks to get going
It’s been a long road back, too, for Flyers’ left wing James van Riemsdyk.
Since returning from a foot injury which cost him 16 games, JVR has registered just a goal and three assists.
He agrees it’s time to get moving.
Hakstol believes things will start to fall into place.
“He’s had pretty good 200-foot play,’’ Hakstol said. “He’s been good on the puck, good defensively. He’s starting to feel some things offensively.
“It’s about the timeframe, coming off that long injury at this time of season. Basically he has to leap from preseason level to mid-year. But you can see it coming for him now.’’
Van Riemsdyk has been playing on a line with Nolan Patrick, who is also trying to get going a bit on the offensive side of things.
“It’s definitely not ideal to start a year like that,’’ JVR said. “It is what it is at this point. For me, coming into a new team, I knew it would be an adjustment. I’m pretty much used to playing with the same guys for six years.
“So you’re hoping to develop a similar sort of chemistry. That’s been a little bit of a process, things are off a bit because you’re still trying to figure it out.’’
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