If an NHL team is looking for a defenseman in this upcoming entry draft, they will probably be enticed by Sweden’s Axel Sandin Pellikka’s offensive abilities. They may favor a guy like Austrian-born blue liner David Reinbacher for his size and patience on the back end. Or perhaps they may desire a player like Canadian-born defender Lukas Dragicevic for his long outlet passes that often allows his teammates to be off to the races. But my question is, why not draft a player who possesses all those skills and so much more?
A player like Etienne Morin, who at just 18 years of age already stands at 6’0 and 183 pounds. Etienne, who is a native of Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, played for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, where like the highly touted Axel Sandin Pellikka, he was able to show off his offensive talents, scoring 21 goals, and 51 assists for 72 points in just 67 regular season games played. If you do, the math that equates to this left-hand shot defenseman averaging over a point per game (1.07). Now to the postseason, where Morin would prove to be able to not only sustain his point production but improve upon it, where over the course of twelve postseason games, Etienne was able to net two goals and 15 assists for 17 points (for an average of 1.41 P.P.G.) this, of course, coming before his team was defeated by the Halifax Moose Heads who have now managed to advance to the Gilles-Courteau Trophy Finals where they will be taking on the Quebec Remparts.
Morin managed to gather all of these points by using his High hockey IQ to wait for traffic in front of the net to be at its heaviest (leaving the opposing team’s goalie utterly unaware of when or where his blistering shot would be coming from). And if a shot was not there, Etienne was more than happy just to utilize his innate on-ice vision to dump the puck off to a teammate who was wide open and just awaiting his chance to put one in the back of the net.
But like, previously stated, Morin is not solely one-dimensional; he is also more than capable of handling things on the back end. Like both Reinbacher and Dragicevic (who are projected to go much earlier in the draft than him), Etienne can also be depended on to bring up the puck and make wise outlet passes to his wingers during a breakout. But what sets him apart from the rest of the field is Morins’ ability to stand up to the opposition at the blue line. This is a trait that has become rare in this day and age, seeing that the NHL has become increasingly less physical over the years. Think about it, even the best players cannot score if they are busy asking if anyone back on the bench happened to get the plate number of the truck that hit them once they crossed into their offensive zone. Not since the likes of Scott Stevens or a young Dion Phaneuf have I seen a defenseman who can lay such mind-erasing open ice hits/hip checks along the board that send their opponent’s ass over teakettle. Furthermore because he has perfected this lost art form, Etienne managed to maintain a very respectable +29 average this season. These kinds of results prove that Morin can be counted on not only to help lead the rush offensively but manages to get back and defend with the best of them as well.
Lastly, if you still are not convinced why NHL clubs should be looking to select this impressive two-way defender (who is projected to go in the second round of this summers draft), you need to look no further than what he was able to do at the IIHFs under 18 World Championship that were played in Switzerland just a few weeks ago. Showing up fashionably late due to the Wildcats still playing in the QMJHL’s playoffs, Etienne was able to immediately step in and sure up Canada’s defense. So much so that the red and black went from being embarrassed by teams like Sweden, who beat them 8-0 on April 20th. To upon his arrival, Canada then being able to battle all the way back to defeat Slovakia in the bronze medal game.
While Morin may not be as flashy as some of the other aforementioned defenders in this article that team so desperately desire, rest assured he is the player they need most. Etienne is not a one-trick pony who, after being figured out, will fizzle out of the league in a few years. He is (in my mind) the best overall defender in this draft, and whichever team is wise enough to select him will surely prosper for the next decade.