03/23/2013 9:00 AM
Photo By Greg Hamil
IceHogs winger Jeremy Morin vies jump to NHL after successful season
Rockford, Ill. – As DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Boom! Shake the Room” echoes throughout the BMO Harris Bank Center, and the sirens of the Rockford IceHogs goal horn blasts through the arena with the red light behind the goal ignited, it’s not too uncommon to find the spotlight of the huddled team members celebrating a goal around IceHogs winger Jeremy Morin.
In his third year of professional hockey, the 21-year-old has been accustomed to scoring throughout his career. From the 2010-11 campaign through March 18 of this season, Morin has appeared in 147 career contests with the IceHogs and ranks 7th all-time during the IceHogs AHL-era with 51 career goals.
As he’s developed with the IceHogs over the years, Morin has shown promise to making it to the next level, making brief stints with the Chicago Blackhawks over the past two campaigns. However, this season has been the Auburn, New York native’s most productive year and attributes his experience to his success.
“It’s my third year, so I understand the (American Hockey League) a little bit better and understand how to be more consistent,” said Morin. “Last year, I had good games and bad games, but I was going through stretches where I wasn’t getting any points. This year, I find myself getting out of those stretches faster and have been producing more consistently.”
In 56 games this season, Morin has already set career highs in points (45) and goals (25), and his 25 tallies thus far paces all Rockford skaters.
Morin has notched a minimum of five points in each month this season, but it’s been most recently that he’s been producing offensively.
“Mo’s really come on in the last month,” said IceHogs head coach Ted Dent, “(He’s) getting a lot of scoring opportunities and he’s getting rewarded by scoring some goals. He’s playing with some jump and skating well.”
After the National Hockey League lockout ended on Jan. 7 and the IceHogs lost five players to the Blackhawks (Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw), Morin stepped his game up and has been more consistent than he’s ever been. In 26 games since the end of the lockout, Morin has notched 29 points (15g-14a), including a pair of separate three-game point streaks and a seven-game point streak.
Not only has Morin been scoring, but he’s been delivering without the puck as well, contributing to the team’s penalty kill unit.
“At this level it gets tougher and tougher to score goals,” said Morin. “You have to find other ways to be effective because you’re not going to score every night.”
The First Jump:
When Morin broke into the AHL during the 2010-11 campaign, the winger was coming off of a successful season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kitchner Rangers. Prior to joining Kitchner, Morin was drafted in the second round (#45 overall) of the 2009 NHL entry draft by the Atlanta Thrashers.
Morin served as an alternative captain with Kitchner in 2009-10 and potted 47 goals and 36 assists for 83 points in 58 games. His 83 points ranked 12th in the OHL that season, and his 23 power-play strikes led the league.
Knowing that becoming a pro hockey player was soon to be reality once his OHL career was through, Morin’s coach in Kitchner, Steve Spott, helped guide him to making the jump to the AHL.
“(Spott) was great,” said Morin. “He prepared me to become a pro when I was still in juniors at just 18-19 years old… He was big for me and I have a lot of respect for him.”
As his OHL career ended, and 23 days after signing his entry-level contract, Morin’s professional journey immediately took a turn when he was part of a deal between Atlanta and the Blackhawks.
He came to Rockford for the 2010 campaign and was introduced to Dent, who was then an assistant coach for the Hogs. In his second year at the helm for Rockford and third coaching Morin, Dent has seen him grow as a professional.
“I think every year he’s learned how to become a pro, both on and off the ice,” said Dent. “Preparation and daily routine I think has improved for sure with Mo.”
As he’s developed within the Blackhawks system over the three years, Morin vies his “final” next step: staying in the National Hockey League. He’s appeared in 12 career games for the Blackhawks over the past two seasons, making his NHL debut on Nov. 7, 2010 against the team that drafted him in Atlanta, and notched his first NHL goal on Dec. 8, 2010 at Dallas.
“The thing I like about Mo is his competitive level,” said Dent. “He battles, and he’s very ‘slippery’ … other teams’ defensemen think that they have him and then they don’t. He’s elusive from the blue line in and has the ability to score goals. He’s got the knack to find the back of the net and burry it when he gets the chance.”
While the scoring has been a strength for Morin, he’s ambitious in improving his game to make that “final” next step.
“I’ve tried to become better defensively and bring that edge to my game that some guys that score goals don’t have,” said Morin. “I think that can separate (myself) from other (players).”
Though he hasn’t laced up in a Blackhawks game yet this season, Morin has had the opportunity to develop more of his skills other than lighting the lamp.
“Mo’s puck management and puck protection that we’re working on here day-to-day has gotten better and needs to get better to make it to the next level,” said Dent.
The more Morin develops a well-rounded game, the more he’ll be ready for the NHL.
“Once (players) get up there (they) have to find (their) way and sometimes players have to adapt their game to fit in to that particular team” said Dent. “There are skill guys in the Juniors and American League and then they go up and have to change their game a little bit. I think (Morin) needs to keep improving every day and when he gets a chance up there he’s got to make the most of it.”
And he’s aware of this.
Said Morin: “I just got to prove to the staff up there and their scouts that I can produce at (the NHL) level consistently.”
As Morin readies himself for the jump, Dent reflected on his time coaching Morin.
“I really enjoy Mo and his personality and coaching him – we have a good relationship. I think I know him well enough now after three years that I know when he needs a kick in the butt and when he needs a pat on the back,” said Dent. “We like to kid and joke around, and I really enjoy his personality around the dressing room.”