After spending the better part of four seasons riding the bus in the American Hockey League, Jeremy Morin will have every opportunity to be a regular with the Blackhawks in 2014-15.
Speaking to reporters at the NHL Draft in June, GM Stan Bowman said he expects Morin to make the leap to the NHL much like Ben Smith did last season.
Entering training camp, there are opportunities for budding prospects on both the right side of Chicago’s third line and the left side of the team’s fourth line.
Morin could slot in on either, and at a drastically smaller cap hit ($800,000) than say a Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million), Morin could win out in the numbers game as Chicago currently sits more than $2 million over the salary cap, per CapGeek.
The Blackhawks re-signed the left-winger to a new two-year, $1.6 million deal on June 27 following a 2013-14 campaign which saw him produce at a point-a-game pace (24 goals and 47 points in 47 games) in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.
Morin also appeared in 24 regular season games for Chicago scoring five goals and 11 points, in part, while Bryan Bickell was sidelined with a knee injury. The 23-year-old appeared in two playoff games for the Blackhawks where he was held pointless.
“He’s been patient with us. Sometimes I know it’s tough to spend a couple years in the minors when you’re an NHL-ready player,” Bowman said. “Give him credit, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to. The only thing that was missing, was an opportunity. Now we’re giving him that opportunity, he’s going to be on the team.
“He’s hungry, he wants to prove what he can do, and he’s going to get the chance.”
The former second-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers (45th overall in 2009), Morin was acquired by the Blackhawks on June 24, 2010 as Chicago, fresh off its first Stanley Cup win since 1961, was in salary dump mode.
Chicago sent Akim Aliu, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to Atlanta in exchange for Morin, the Thrashers’ first round (Kevin Hayes) and second round (Justin Holl) picks in 2010, which were acquired in a previous trade from the New Jersey Devils, as well as Marty Reasoner and Joey Crabb
Billed as a creative goal-scorer, Morin doesn’t shy away from the physical game. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound, Morin has 12 career AHL fights according to hockeyfights.com and racked up 121 penalty minutes during the 2011-12 season with the IceHogs.
Given that Chicago’s top six is all but set in stone, Morin won’t necessarily be relied on for his goal-scoring prowess. In order for him to stick with the big club this season, he will have to show his gritty, physical side in addition to his soft hands.
Related: Under Pressure: Brad Richards