NEWARK, N.J. -- Rimouski Oceanic defenseman Samuel Morin was happy to see Chris Pronger, the NHL player he grew up idolizing, at the table after the Philadelphia Flyers selected the 6-foot-6 defenseman with the 11th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft.
"I just said hi," Morin said. "I didn't know what to say. I just said hi."
The fact Morin and Pronger can look at each other eye to eye is about the only thing the pair has in common right now. The future, though, looks promising.
"Samuel has come a long way in a short period of time," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He's ultra-competitive. For a guy that big he skates very well. Great range, pretty good understanding of the game, and his puck skills have gotten so much better in a not very long period of time. I think he's a very good prospect with a chance to really blossom over the next year or two."
Morin had four goals, 12 assists and 117 penalty minutes in 46 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games, with a broken collarbone costing him time. He was No. 76 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for this year's draft but jumped to No. 23 in the final ranking. The Flyers were impressed by how he played after the injury and his strong performance at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in April.
"He's a kid we really like," Holmgren said. "He's come a long way in the last little while. [Scout] Simon Nolet, who works in Quebec, and Todd Hearty our other scout in Quebec, they spent a lot of time following Samuel around. They're very excited we were able to draft him."
Holmgren said he had been speaking with a number of teams about potential moves, but said once he knew Morin would be there at No. 11, those calls stopped.
"We had quite a few calls to move back which we really didn't have … we identified three or four players and Samuel was one of them," the GM said. "Once we knew he would be there we had no intention of moving back."
Holmgren said though Morin steadily improved as 2012-13 went on, it would be tough for him to jump right to the NHL for the 2013-14 season.
"I'm never going to say never [but] I think that's a stretch," Holmgren said. "We'll get a look at him next week with some of our other young kids when they come in to town. We'll see. But in my opinion, right now I'd say it's a stretch. Not to take anything away from him, we think he's a very good prospect for the Flyers for the future."
The future could be just as bright for Swedish blueliner Robert Hagg, the Flyers' second-round pick (No. 41). The 6-2, 193-pound defenseman played 27 games for Modo in the Swedish Elite League, and was one of the best at the position for Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"He's one of the guys we had in a group in the second round we were hoping would fall to us," Holmgren said. "When he was there we were happy to snap him up. I think Robert has good size, he moves good. He's pretty good with the puck. We like his overall game."