Back on March 27, 2019, Samuel Morin was taken off guard in the morning at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. He was told he'd be entering the lineup to play his first game since an arduous recovery from a torn ACL and dealing with several other lower-body injuries. Morin had gone 16 months without playing an NHL game.
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"My road to recovery has been pretty weird," Morin said then. "It'll be a story to tell later. Just don't give up."
Morin didn't give up, even after suffering a second torn ACL in the same right knee during November 2019. On Saturday afternoon, March 27, 2021, Morin wrote a story he'll tell later. He scored his first career NHL goal. It was the game-winning goal in the third period of the Flyers' 2-1 victory over the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Exactly two years after that first game back from the initial torn ACL.
"It’s pretty special," Brian Elliott said. "This guy’s been through a lot within the organization. A lot of injuries and surgeries and he’s always come back with a smile on his face. Every day, ready to work, can’t wait to get back on the ice with the guys. I think that’s why everybody's so happy."
Morin suffered the two torn ACLs in a span of 19 months. After the second, he was fighting for his career.
"I love the game," Morin said. "I didn’t really care where I was — AHL, East Coast, anywhere in Europe — I was just ready for anything. I thought about it, but I got a lot of support here with the Flyers — good teammates and good family. I worked hard and now I’m there and trying to stay in the lineup."
On top of overcoming the injuries ahead of 2020-21, the 25-year-old started a transition from defenseman to left winger, an idea head coach Alain Vigneault and the Flyers approached him about in the offseason. The Flyers felt they could use more size up front and, with his injuries, Morin had dropped down the organizational depth chart on defense.
"He hasn’t played a lot of hockey, he wants to do whatever he can to play," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in December. "I think if this was an opportunity for him to get ice time and be with our club, then he was excited about it."
Recently with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Morin started playing defense again because the Phantoms needed help on the back end. With the big club's defense in flux, the Flyers have also called upon Morin to play his natural position over the last two games.
"It was pretty hard," Morin said. "It’s hard when you’re a defensive defenseman and trying to go to forward. I was a bit lost out there, I think anyone can tell. I tried my best. I went down there and played defense, played defense good. Got the call-up. Chuck told me that I’m a D-man now, I’m going to play defense for the rest of the year. That’s kind of what I wanted and I’m extremely happy about that. I’m a D-man, for sure, I’m a D-man."
As a defenseman Saturday, he was scoring a game-winning goal for the Flyers, who had lost four straight and desperately needed a victory before a two-game road set against the Sabres.
"It was absolutely crazy," Morin said of the celebration after his goal that came with under five minutes left in regulation. "I just saw [Michael Raffl] put his hand in the air and screaming, and [Shayne Gostisbehere] flying on me. I’m really happy, it’s the best moment in my life. I don’t score a lot of goals. It was a big one, a big W for us. It was just a big moment for me and I’m going to enjoy it and reset for tomorrow. We've got a big game against Buffalo in two days, we can’t be too high. Enjoy the moment and go after it."
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