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Morin knows he has to prove himself to Cup champs

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- His media session is nearly over and a nervous Jeremy Morin is asked about being the centerpiece of a June trade that brought him to the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
It's the end of the Chicago Blackhawks' four-day developmental prospect camp -- at which Morin, 19, worked out for the first time in front of his new team's front office staff, coaches and fans.
After scoring three goals and displaying an impressive offensive skill set, Morin showed why he was Atlanta's second-round pick (No. 45) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He also showed why he was the linchpin of a deal that sent Hawks playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien -- along with Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu -- to Atlanta.
Morin flashes a smile for the first time since that bank of TV cameras in front of him started recording. He pauses a second before answering, and thinks about being dealt for a star power forward like Byfuglien. He then thinks about all the other young talent Chicago has accrued in several off-season cost-cutting measures that sent a handful of fan favorites packing.
"It's exciting to be a part of it," Morin said. "There were a lot of big-name players in those trades. Just coming here, you know (Byfuglien) was a big part of that playoff team and had a great playoffs. Just to be part of that (trade) was fun."
He added a finishing thought that should make Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman happy.
"At the same time, I've still got to (remember) I'm not those guys," Morin said. "I still have to prove myself and get to those ranks."
Technically speaking, he's right. There is work to do before he's NHL-ready. He needs more size and a little more speed. But after looking at the sheer numbers Morin has put up everywhere he goes, it's obvious that he's probably not too far away.
Morin might not be entirely comfortable talking in front of TV cameras yet, but he certainly makes himself at home in the one place that matters most -- on the ice with a puck dancing along the blade of his stick.
He's got great hands. He's got a hard shot and sharpshooter's aim. He likes skating with the puck, head up, always looking to make something good happen. Opponents found that out the hard way in the OHL last season, Morin's first season in junior hockey. Playing for the Kitchener Rangers, Morin made his presence felt by scoring 47 goals and adding 36 assists in just 58 games.
"He's a great player," said Hawks prospect Kyle Beach, who got to know Morin better at the camp and is a highly-rated prospect himself as the No. 10 pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "You look at the stats, and he had 47 goals in the OHL -- which is very impressive. He's got good skills. He likes to have the puck, and he likes to wheel with the puck. He can make the plays, but he can also shoot the puck."
No question those are all traits of an impact player. Yet Morin will ultimately be judged in Chicago by another question: Can he make Hawks fans forgive Bowman for trading Byfuglien?
Byfuglien, more than any of the former Hawks who were dealt this off-season, connected with Chicago fans like he'd been raised here instead of a small Minnesota town near the U.S./Canadian border. Byfuglien was a hero to many here, but especially to those in the minority-laden neighborhoods that surround United Center on the city's West side.
Byfuglien scored so many key goals in the Hawks' Cup run that it became commonplace to see people wearing his jersey in all corners of the city and surrounding suburbs. He terrorized Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to no end. He wore Elvis-like sunglasses and Kermit the Frog tennis shoes.
He did that silly, taunting figure-skater move toward the glass after scoring goals, and then there was "the hit," when he did what every Hawks fan wanted to do themselves to Philadelphia Flyers 6-foot-6 defenseman/pest Chris Pronger. In Game 5 of the Cup Final, Byfuglien smashed Pronger into the corner at United Center -- sending him into the glass like a bug hitting a car's windshield.
Morin is never going to replace all that -- but he might just be talented enough to ease the pain of losing the power forward. He even seems to embrace the lofty expectations, and feels like his first time wearing a Hawks jersey was an overall success.
"You compare yourself a little bit to other players, but mainly just focus on yourself," Morin said of the prospect camp. "We all come from different backgrounds and age groups and all different situations. I'm just trying to focus on myself, and I thought I came in and had a pretty good camp."
If "Morin" Blackhawks jerseys are being worn to Hawks home games within the next couple of years, you'll know he was right.
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