Samuel Morin takes next step toward long-awaited return to Flyers

AP Images

Samuel Morin takes next step toward long-awaited return to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — The return of Samuel Morin took another step Thursday morning.

The Flyers loaned Morin to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for conditioning purposes in an effort to get the defenseman some game action at the AHL level before he’s likely recalled early next week. 

Morin has been overcoming an ACL injury he suffered on May 9, 2018, during the Phantoms' epic five-overtime thriller when his skate caught a rut in the ice. Morin had surgery later that month when surgeons had to take a tendon from another part of Morin’s leg to repair the torn ligament.

“You’re going to have a little bit of pain for about a year, that’s what they said and it’s normal, but it’s not a big deal,” Morin said. “I’ve gone through way worse before.” 

Perhaps more painful injuries, but not quite the grueling rehab process. 

Morin has not only been strengthening his leg through off-ice activities since last summer, but he’s been skating on the ice as far back as training camp. It wasn’t until January that the 6-foot-7 defenseman began to ramp his level of play on the ice.

The biggest challenge is the twisting and turning involved in Morin’s positional play, especially against some of the league’s more talented forwards. 

“It’s so weird. I like my stick right now. I’ve got a good stick on the puck, but guys like Jake [Voracek], they go and turn on me and it’s like trusting your knee to put all the weight on it,” Morin said. “Obviously, it’s a big challenge mentally.”

Morin will join goaltender Brian Elliott with the Phantoms this weekend as they play three games in three nights. Friday could be Morin’s first game action in nine months. 

“They’ve told me it’s going to be a year before I’m feeling where I was before,” Morin said. “It’s just trusting my knee. Obviously, it's in my head a lot. It’s going to be hard. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers loan Carter Hart to Phantoms, recall Anthony Stolarz

Flyers loan Carter Hart to Phantoms, recall Anthony Stolarz

As expected, Carter Hart will use the NHL’s All-Star break to get some work in at the AHL level.

The Flyers on Thursday loaned Hart to the Phantoms and, in turn, recalled Anthony Stolarz from his conditioning stint in Lehigh Valley.

The Flyers are looking to keep Hart fresh and view this as an opportunity most teams aren’t afforded since the 20-year-old rookie is waivers exempt. 

"We are happy with the progress Anthony has made in his rehab and two recent games in Lehigh Valley," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release by the team. "With a full week off the ice due to the NHL bye week and All-Star breaks, we would like Carter to continue getting ice time and game action with the Phantoms."

The Phantoms are home Friday as they host Laval and hit the road for a game in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Saturday. Expect Hart to start one of those games before rejoining the Flyers for Monday’s game against Winnipeg at the Wells Fargo Center.

While Hart can be shuttled back and forth between the Flyers and the Phantoms, the same can’t be said for Stolarz, who was able to play with Lehigh Valley as part of his conditioning stint. 

Ideally, the organization would like both Hart and Stolarz to be playing and not sitting, but Stolarz would have to clear waivers again in order to be sent back down to the AHL. 

A safer route would be to keep Stolarz with the Flyers along with Hart, and then place Mike McKenna on waivers and send him down to the Phantoms if he clears. 

Another wrinkle in the Flyers' never-ending, yearlong goaltending saga is how will this play out once Brian Elliott receives medical clearance to resume practice and is activated from injured reserve?

Elliott’s expected return is early-to-mid February. 

"There’s so much to be factored in here," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said recently. "With Stolie if he plays, is he healthy? Where’s Brian Elliott at? There’s all kinds of stuff that has to factor into the final decision on that."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers 'see this rise' with Philippe Myers, who can handle the pressure

Flyers 'see this rise' with Philippe Myers, who can handle the pressure

Philippe Myers is no longer a mystery that went untouched in the 2015 draft.

When people watch, they scratch their heads.

How did this kid go undrafted?

He came to the Flyers at 196 pounds. Many didn't know the pronunciation of his first name. He was just a training camp invite.

That has all changed. There are expectations now.

Except, deep down, he's no different.

"I'm the same person that was undrafted," Myers said last week at Flyers development camp. "I try to stay off the social media stuff, try to just focus on myself. It's not a good thing to get too wrapped up in all of that. Just trying to focus on myself and try to get better as a player and try to get stronger in the gym."

So when things didn't go his way to start the 2017-18 season, his first year pro with anticipation among the fan base, Myers didn't panic because he's been there before.

It's almost as if going undrafted paid off.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman, a fluid skater and skilled for his size, turned it right back on after overcoming injuries and a somewhat slow start with the AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Following 14 games over the first two and a half months of the year, Myers appeared in 36 from Dec. 23 to the end of the regular season, putting up three goals, 11 assists and a plus-10 rating. He then punctuated it all with three goals and four assists over 13 postseason games.

"Before Christmas, it was a little disappointing with all the injuries and stuff, but I think I progressed pretty smoothly there after Christmas and in the playoffs," Myers said. "I'm pretty happy with the way that the season went. By all means, I'm not satisfied, but I'm pretty happy, in general, how it went."

Myers had general manager Ron Hextall's eye back in 2015 when the big blueliner went undrafted. He has the GM's attention even more so now, even in July.

"Phil, he just got better and better as the year went on. You saw him at the start of the year and he was a good player. Then as the year went along, you just see this rise. It's what you want," Hextall said. "You want your players to get better the entire year. To Phil’s credit, he did. 

"The playoffs were as good as he played all year. Toward the end of the season, he was a horse for us. He was a very good player. I don't want to say opened our eyes because we expected that from him, but he certainly put himself in a position this year for us to take a look at him."

With 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin likely out until February recovering from a torn ACL, Myers is the next in line to join the Flyers' young foundation of defensemen, including Shayne Gostisbehere (25 years old), Ivan Provorov (21), Travis Sanheim (22) and Robert Hagg (23).

Is Myers ready?

"If he had played a whole year, maybe he would be close," Flyers development coach Kjell Samuelsson said last week. "But he was hurt a lot so I think he needs more time in the minors."

While it doesn't seem like there's a spot open yet, anyway, that can change throughout a long regular season. And possessing a coveted right-handed shot only helps Myers' call-up chances for his NHL debut in 2018-19.

"Try to push for a roster spot here in September," Myers said.

Right as the Flyers push their process into a new gear.

More on the Flyers