Sam Morin still has gas in the tank
Sam Morin was selected with the eleventh overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Morin was the first of three consecutive years in which the Flyers drafted a defenseman. Travis Sanheim in 2014 and Ivan Provorov in 2015 were the next two. On Saturday, January 30th, Morin made just his tenth appearance in a Flyers’ sweater. Seeing Morin finally play again gave me the idea for this series.
Morin has suffered injuries that delayed his growth as a defenseman. This offseason it was decided that with the defensive depth, his future was at wing. Morin accepted the challenge and studied players like the Islanders Matt Martin. In his season debut, he registered a shot on goal, three hits, and a blocked shot in 5:31 of ice time.
The Flyers could use Morin’s size and toughness in the lineup. Opposing teams appear to push them around, especially when playing against big strong forwards like Anders Lee. However, hockey has evolved. The need to play four even lines consistently has become a big part of the game. Seldom does a team have a need for the “grocery stick.’ That is the name given to a player who barely sees the ice. The grocery stick is usually sitting mid bench, separating the offense and defense. Just like how a grocery stick separates your groceries from the next person in line.
I would love to see Morin evolve his game to be like Martin. I want to see Morin play meaningful minutes for the Orange and Black while putting up some points. When drafted, he had expectations of filling in as that big body defenseman. That is something that the Flyers lacked since the retirement of Chris Pronger. At this point, it is safe to say that Morin as a first-round pick has been a major disappointment. But he isn’t the first.
The one that got away
The Flyers selected Peter Forsberg with the sixth overall pick in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Coming out of Sweden, Forsberg was ranked as the 25th best prospect by TSN. The pick seemed to shock the hockey world. The Flyers’ European Scout, Inge Hammarström, and General Manager Russ Farwell felt that Forsberg was their guy and he would prove them right. The NHL Media slammed the Flyers for the pick, considering TSN had Forsberg pegged as a second-rounder who could sneak into the first round. Well, Forsberg eventually did prove them right. Just not really with the Flyers.
Foppa and Big E Will Be Forever Linked
After being drafted, Forsberg opted to stay in his hometown to play for Modo Hockey of the Swedish Elite League. He didn’t play in the NHL until the 1994-1995 season, at the age of 21. Sadly, Forsberg would not play with the Flyers until later in his career as he was one of the prospects traded to the Quebec Nordiques one year later at the 1992 draft, netting the Flyers one Eric Lindros.
The Nordiques drafted Lindros first overall in 1991, but he refused to play for them. He later said he would never play for Nordiques owner, Marcel Aubut. Lindros returned to his OHL team the Oshawa Generals. He represented Canada in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, winning a silver medal. Ironically, Forsberg would score in the seventh round of the shootout. It ended up being the gold-winning goal for Sweden’s first gold medal in the 1994 winter games.
It’s hard to argue with The Flyers trading Forsberg for a generational player like Eric Lindros. However, the Flyers didn’t see that Forsberg himself was a generational player and future Hall of Famer. In only 708 played, Forsberg registered 885 points, 249 goals, and 626 assists. Although hampered by injuries, including an injured foot during his years as a Flyer, Forsberg still was a dominant player. Only one of his NHL seasons, 2006-2007, Forsberg scored fewer points than games played. That season, he scored 55 points in 57 games.
The Result and What Could Have Been
It is hard to say that the 1991 draft was a failure for the Flyers. They did eventually trade Forsberg for another Hall of Fame Player in Lindros. The main difference is that Forsberg had a better team to include players like Hall of Famers Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, and of course, Patrick Roy, netting him two Stanley Cup Championships.
However, the reason why I see this as a failure lies with Nordiques President, Aubut. Had he not reneged on the trade and had the debacle with the Rangers, Forsberg could have stayed in Philly, as he was not initially part of the agreed trade. Can you imagine Lindros and Forsberg together in the Orange and Black?
Sadly, both players had multiple injuries that cut their NHL career short. Lindros missed time with concussions, including the 2000-2001 season. His family feud with the Flyers President, Bobby Clarke expedited his departure from Philly after nine years.
First Round Failure? The Jury is Still Out
Next up, 2016 First-round pick, German Rubtsov. Rubtsov was drafted 22nd overall by the Flyers. The 22-year-old Russian forward has so far played just four games in the NHL. Last season he tallied points 13 points (2G, 11A) in 42 games in Lehigh Valley. Like Morin, he has suffered injuries that delayed his development. He is currently playing back in his home country of Russian. The Flyers loaned Rubstov to HC Sochi in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
A shoulder injury ended his 2018-2019 season after only 14 games in Lehigh Valley. He registered ten points in those games. Ruby also missed time due to a concussion. So far he has only played in 60 professional games in North America. This season for HC Sochi, he has eleven points in 43 games.
The 22nd overall pick has faired pretty well for the Flyers throughout their history. Simon Gagne and Claude Giroux were both hidden gems taken at 22. Both had or are having great careers with the Flyers. Rubtsov isn’t fitting that bill. Four years removed from the draft, the idea of Rubtsov playing meaningful minutes with the Flyers is dwindling. As the Lehigh Valley Phantoms opened their training camp, Rubtsov wasn’t on the roster!
Having their first two picks in this draft, the other being Pascale LeBarge, not playing for the Flyers, we can’t call this draft a bad one. This is the draft that got them, Carter Hart!
If I could turn back time…
The Flyers have had their share of first-round picks that exceeded expectations. However, they have their share that hasn’t panned out. Another player taken with the 22nd overall pick was Maxime Ouellet. Ouellet was drafted out of the QMJHL, having played for the Quebec Remparts.
Ouellet came into the draft as the second-ranked North American Goalie, ranked behind Brian Finley. He was team Canada’s top net-minder in two consecutive U20-WJC. It appeared that Ouellet could be the Flyers’ answer for their goaltending woes!
Ouellet never panned out. He played in only two games for the Flyers. In a draft where Ryan Miller went in the fifth round and Craig Anderson went in the third, the NHL scouts really had this draft wrong. Just for context, Henrik Zetterberg was drafted in the seventh round, 210th overall.
It’s not all doom and gloom
Although there have been failures in the draft, we can be assured that the Flyers have managed to find hidden gems outside the first round. Carter Hart, Oskar Lindblom, and undrafted players like Phil Myers and prospect Egor Zamula, give us reason to be optimistic. Yes, I am aware Optimism is not something we Philly fans practice, however, being pessimistic hasn’t gotten us a Stanley Cup Parade. Maybe it is time to change that way of thinking?
As we all wait to see when Flyers hockey will eventually return, Stick with us at Phillysportsnetwork.com and at Sticks Up High Podcast, for all your Flyers news. This draft series will continue as part of the new Sticks Up High Series.
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire