photo credit: Hockey Broad
By Jon Fromi
Jeremy Morin is a name that has been at or near the top of the Blackhawks’ prospect list since Chicago obtained his rights 14 months ago. As last season’s training camp came to a close, it appeared that the Auburn, New York native was on a fast track to the NHL.
Almost a year later, Morin is playing what has to be a frustrating waiting game, one that will likely continue for the talented forward until two things occur. A spot on the roster will need to be won. First, Morin will need a clean bill of health in order for that to happen.
Morin, a product of the United States Hockey Developmental Program, was a second-round pick by Atlanta in 2009. Following his selection, Morin torched the Ontario Hockey League for 47 goals and 36 assists in 58 games with the Kitchener Rangers. He was also a point a game player in seven games for the U.S.A.’s gold medal team at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Morin came to Chicago last summer via the six-player swap that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel to the Thrashers. As the centerpiece of the deal, Morin is charged with the task of turning Stan Bowman’s salary dump into a long-term win for Chicago.
It looked as if Morin might set about that task much sooner than anyone could have expected.
The 6’ 1”, 190 pound Morin impressed a lot of people right from the start of training camp last fall. A longshot to make the team in the summer, he showed a quick release and a nose for the net that eventually earned him two call-ups over the first three months of the 2010-11 season.
Morin appeared in two stints for Chicago, first coming up for a pair of games November 6th and 7th. He then was up for seven games in place of Marian Hossa in November and December, picking up his first NHL goal December 8th against Dallas.
If Morin hadn’t been tabbed for the U.S. World Junior Championships squad again, along with fellow prospect Nick Leddy, there was serious debate as to whether the team would keep him on the NHL roster and burn the first year of his entry contract. Instead, the then 19-year-old Morin was sent to play in Buffalo in January, with plans to return him to Rockford afterward.
Morin’s shoulder was banged up early at the WJC tournament. He did eventually return and got into four games overall and recorded an assist. From there he went back to Rockford to continue his development. Unfortunately, he played in just three games with the IceHogs upon his return.
On January 15th, in a game against the Chicago Wolves, Morin was upended by a hip checking Andrey Zubarev and landed on his head. He has not played since that evening at the AllState Arena.
The IceHogs termed it an upper body injury, but it appeared to be more specifically a head and neck injury. As a result, Morin’s first professional season ended with 22 AHL games, eight goals and four assists. With that, the waiting began.
The shutdown put the clamps on what was a promising rookie season. Morin has an aggressive style to go with great release and is not afraid to get dirty in the corners. He even threw down the gloves once with the ‘Hawks against St. Louis, continuing a Rockford-Peoria AHL feud with Chris Porter.
Morin was a black ace during the playoffs, and went over to Switzerland last month with a few other Blackhawks to train. All signs pointed to Morin being ready to return and get back in the mix at this year’s camp.
“It was kind of a weird play. I just got flipped over someone’s back and landed awkwardly,” Morin said to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this summer about the injury. “But it’s all good now.”
Either the team is being understandably cautious, or all is not progressing as was planned.
So far Morin has been noticeably absent from contact. He was named to the team that participated in Toronto’s rookie tournament, but was scratched in all three games. Now in main camp, Morin practiced at camp for the first time on Sunday (he was kept out of Saturday’s sessions), but through Monday he had not seen action in a scrimmage.
Were it not for what is most likely believed to be a concussion, Morin would currently be in the spot Ben Smith occupies concerning the chance for a spot on this year’s team. Morin’s short NHL tenure was every bit as impressive as Smith’s late-season success. However, fate seems to have Morin slated for Rockford and playing catch up this fall.
If Morin can obtain the clearance for game action when the AHL season begins and can pick his career up where it left off in January, a call-up sometime this season may again be in the cards. With several veterans signed to one-year deals, Chicago can afford to give Morin the chance to recover and develop into a player who could lead the next wave of young talent to the Blackhawks.