NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Samuel Morin called Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger his idol.
Morin never imagined they’d meet like this.
Pronger was among the first to shake Morin’s hand after Philadelphia took the defenseman on Sunday with the 11th pick of the NHL draft.
Owner Ed Snider, general manager Paul Holmgren and Pronger were all on the Prudential Center stage to greet Morin after the pick was announced.
Morin, who played for Rimouski of the QMJHL, could be at least a year or two away from making the team.
“I don’t know if I’ll be like him,” Morin said of Pronger.
Morin is a 6-foot-6, 203-pound defenseman. He’s considered a shutdown defender with little offensive punch.
“I’m more of a defensive defenseman,” he said.
Holmgren said it was way too early to call Morin another Pronger. But he’s confident Morin can develop into a solid blueliner.
“Samuel’s come a long way in a short period of time,” Holmgren said. “He’s ultra-competitive. For a guy that’s that big, he skates very well. I think he’s a very good prospect with a chance to really blossom over the next few years.”
While making the pick with an eye on the future, the Flyers are trying to strengthen a defense that was worn down by injuries last season. The Flyers took another defenseman in the second round with the pick of 6-foot-2, 204-pound Robert Haag.
After missing the playoffs, the Flyers bought out the contracts of forward Danny Briere and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They also signed defenseman Mark Streit to a four-year, $21-million deal earlier this month.
They acquired Streit from the Islanders. Streit has 65 goals and 288 points in 491 career games. And he’s coming off a solid shortened season, in which he had six goals and 27 points to lead Islanders defensemen. He could be sharing a line with Morin soon enough.
Morin, who broke his collarbone last season, hoped to play with the Flyers next season. The franchise has traditionally had a hard time developing homegrown defenseman and usually chases high-priced free agents, like Pronger.
Pronger was among those sitting at the team table when they made the pick.
“As a big man, he’s got to continue to work on his speed, his quickness, mobility,” Pronger said. “As a big man, you can never be quick enough trying to catch all those little water bugs out there.”
Pronger knows what he’s talking about — he’s 6-foot-6 and long reigned as one of the biggest defenseman in the NHL.
Pronger, the 2000 NHL MVP, has not played for the Flyers since Nov. 19, 2011 and still suffers from lingering effects of multiple concussions. He isn’t ready to retire, even though a concussion specialist has advised him not to return to hockey.
They’ll never play together. Morin, though, will always savor his draft-day moment with Pronger.
“He’s mean, tough,” Pronger said, “practices hard.”
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