PRAGUE, Czech Republic – With the status of free agent forward Chris Stewart still up in the air, it seems like now more than ever rookie defenseman Sam Morin’s toughness will, at some point, be vital to the Flyers.
Morin, currently the team’s seventh (spare) backliner, was relieved to survive Tuesday’s final roster cut but knows people in his skates don’t have a whole lot of job security.
In fact, if second-year defenseman Philippe Myers performs well at Lehigh Valley, the picture could change quickly.
The difference between the two players is Myers did not have to clear waivers to go down and Morin, a former first-round (2013, 11th overall) draft pick, does.
Every NHL team needs a guy who can hold opponents accountable and at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds Morin can certainly fit that bill.
“I’ve always said, I have something that a lot of guys don’t,’’ Morin said before Friday night’s season-opening game against the Chicago Blackhawks. “I’m not an offensive power, that’s for sure.
“But the defensive part, the physical part and the toughness, I think I have it. I’m a tough guy to play against. That’s the way I need to be every night.’’
Morin is the kind of intimidating force that forwards hate to play against.
“My last two (preseason) games, I was really on my toes, winning my one-on-ones and really physical – not hitting the guys but being in the guys’ faces. You don’t need to hit to be physical.
“Sometimes when you hit it’s because you’re second on the puck. It’s good to be first on the puck. I need to be ‘that’ guy.’’
Morin is coming off a devastating ACL injury which pretty much cost him nearly all of last season. He played only a combined total of seven games (five with the Flyers, two with the Phantoms).
“The good thing now is I’m healthy for sure,’’ he said. “We came to camp with a lot of good players, a lot of good D-men. It was a big competition.
“I was happy with my training camp. I think my last two games I stepped up and played very well.
Morin is no stranger to battling for playing time, going all the way back to the 2015 World Junior Championships in Toronto when he helped Team Canada defeat Russia for the gold medal.
He appeared in all seven games and registered a plus-3, although at the start of the tournament there was a lot of uncertainty he would even make the national team roster.
“The coach told me I was just going to play the penalty kill,’’ Morin grinned. “If it’s my role (with the Flyers), I’ll take it. But I’m not satisfied with that. I want to move higher, I want to play in all the games.
“You can’t be satisfied with that role. You don’t want to be up in the stands, you want to be in the lineup every night. I want to show my coach and my teammates I’m ready to go. I want to have a long NHL career, I don’t want to be a seventh D-man, that’s for sure.’’
>Provorov likes Vigneault system
Fourth-year defenseman Ivan Provorov is already playing for his third coach (Alain Vigneault) and it appears he’s found one whose system seems to suit his style.
“I like the system we’re playing now,’’ Provorov said. “It’s a little more up-tight, closer (to opposing forwards). I think it benefits our team because we all can skate and be able to put pressure on teams sooner.
“I think all of us have bought in very well. We’re just looking forward to starting the season.’’
>Hayes excited to start with Giroux
Kevin Hayes says he’s relieved to finally be playing with Claude Giroux rather than against him.
Hayes centered a line which included Jake Voracek for Friday night’s game.
“It was never fun playing against him (Giroux), chasing him around the ice,’’ said Hayes, a former New York Ranger and Winnipeg Jet. “It’s exciting to join him tonight. I’m hoping that there’s instant chemistry but we’ll see how it goes.’’