At his farewell news conference last week, fired general manager Ron Hextall said he had been searching for someone with a “little more juice” and a “little more sandpaper.”
If healthy, Samuel Morin could have provided it.
Morin is a 6-foot-6, 227-pound defenseman. Physicality is his trademark. Unfortunately for him and the Flyers, he tore up his right knee last season while playing for the AHL’s Phantoms and is still rehabbing. February is the target month for his return.
He won’t help Hextall, but he may provide some needed “juice” on the back end for new general manager Chuck Fletcher.
For the first time since he had ACL surgery May 31, Morin skated with the team Thursday, even if it was only drills in a morning skate.
“I think it was good for him, mentally, to be part of a short team skate," coach Dave Hakstol said. “Still a long road obviously for him to go, and the time frame hasn’t changed, but it’s a good step.”
“I feel great,” said Morin, who also had a groin/hip injury before he tore up his knee. “I see the doctor [Thursday night] and I’ll know more, but for sure I’m going in the right direction.”
Morin said he has no limitations in his skating, but can’t engage in contact. A first-round draft selection in 2013, the 23-year-old said he “can’t wait to hit someone and get into those battles."
Sitting out, Morin said, has had some benefits. He studies the defensemen from the press box during home games. He thinks he will learn and get better “from all the games I watch."
If not for the injuries last season, Morin would probably be a regular with the Flyers right now. He had a conversation with Flyers president Paul Holmgren after his latest injury.
“Homer told me right after I tore my ACL that, ‘You’re going to be stronger than ever, mentally,' and I think I am,” Morin said. “Just trying to keep a good attitude and be a positive guy here and just enjoy.”
After his surgery, Morin had a long talk with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who had ACL surgery on his left knee in 2014 and made a strong recovery.
“I was pretty down,” Morin admitted.
Gostisbehere boosted his spirits, telling Morin about his recovery and how he was in great hands with trainer Jim McCrossin and Peter DeLuca, the team’s orthopedic surgeon.
“Ghost gave me a lot of good tips, but you can’t compare rehabs. We’re all different,” Morin said.
Morin has been skating at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, usually without his teammates. He’s frequently the first one on the ice and the last one off of it.
"Right now, I’m at the stage where it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it almost feels like it was,’ " he said with a huge grin.