|Travis Morin didn’t experience much adjustment going from the collegiate level to the ECHL at the end of last season, except the size of the surface he was playing on.|
That came to fruition in 2004, when the 23-year-old was chosen in the ninth round by the Washington Capitals, shortly after completing his freshman year at the University of Minnesota-Mankato.
“It was a surprise,” said Morin, who was 20 years old at the time he was drafted. “I wasn’t really expecting anything. I found out from one of my brother’s friends. That’s something, when you’re growing up, you want to have happen. I never really thought it would happen. It was just kind of an honor to get drafted.”
Despite being selected by the Caps, Morin used every last ounce of collegiate eligibility, collecting 133 points in 151 games for Mankato. After finishing up his senior year, the Brooklyn Park, Minn., native joined the South Carolina Stingrays.
Right from the beginning, Stingrays coach Jared Bednar knew he had something. In eight games, Morin tallied two goals and an assist, while providing Bednar with a two-way center who was responsible in his own end of the ice.
“It was good to get that experience out of the way, so I knew what it was like coming into this year,” Morin said. “I think it definitely helped me out. It was definitely nice to get those games under my belt.”
This season, Morin has picked up where he left off – only this time, he’s tearing up the score sheet. In nine games with the Stingrays, Morin racked up 13 points (eight goals, five assists), and earned a well-deserved promotion to the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey over the weekend.
“You want to keep moving up,” Morin said. “Hopefully, I can continue to play the way I’ve been playing up here.”
“We had him at the end of last year, just for a short stint, at the end of his college career,” Bednar said. “He’s using his reach really well. He’s a tall, lanky guy. He’s just finding ways to get on the score sheet right now. It’s a good time for him to get called up. I think he’s playing really well. Hopefully, he can go up there and do the same thing.”
Bednar certainly believes the rookie has what it takes to stick. That being said, he sure wouldn’t mind to see Morin’s face again. Two of Morin’s tallies came shorthanded (which has him tied with Victoria’s Wes Goldie for the ECHL lead), while he posted a plus-8 rating.
“He competes really hard,” said Bednar, who has South Carolina off to a 5-3-1 start. “He’s certainly picked up the ‘D’ zone coverage in the pro game. He’s a better penalty killer than I thought he would be after seeing him last year. He’s really smart in taking away the passing lanes. He figured out the system really early.”
Now, Morin must pick up the faster play in the AHL. The soft-spoken Morin said he didn’t experience must of adjustment going from the collegiate level to the ECHL at the end of last season. In the end, the biggest difference was the size of the surface he was playing on.
“I don’t know if there was huge jump,” Morin said. “It’s a little bit faster and the guys are just a little bit bigger. I think the only difference really was the rinks. A lot of the rinks we played in (at Mankato) were Olympic size. There are a lot more smaller rinks here and everything happens just a little bit faster.”
But Morin handled the pace beautifully, averaging 1.44 points per game (tops among all Stingrays) in nine contests. Much of Morin’s success, according to Bednar, is his willingness to shoot the puck.
“He’s not scared to shoot the puck,” Bednar said. “If you look at guys who tend to shoot the puck a lot, they also tend to score a lot of goals. I think a lot of guys try to get a little bit too fancy. But he’s shooting, and it’s going in for him.
“He’s very skilled,” the Stingrays coach added. “He had a good college career. I think he’s still finding ways to fit in the pro game, but he is a very good defensive player. He uses his stick and his reach to his advantage. He works really hard. He’s a real quiet guy. He has very good hands and good vision.”
Morin’s promotion to the AHL certainly gives Bednar’s team a different look, and the South Carolina coach is unaware of just how long Morin will be in Hershey. It may very well come down to just how much production Morin provides for the Bears, who scored only 17 goals through their first eight games of the season.
“I think it just depends on what he does (in Hershey),” Bednar said. “I think that he could use a little more time down here. It wouldn’t hurt him. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he went up and did really well and was able to stay, either. Typically with his age, I think with the depth that Hershey and Washington have, it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back and had sporadic call-ups. But if he stays, it wouldn’t surprise me, either. Hopefully, he can put up some numbers up there. I think that’s what they’re looking for.”