Sioux City Muskateers defenseman Chad Morin may be in his first year of USHL hockey, but he already has more valuable experience than any other player in the USHL.
The 17-year-old from Auburn, New York, spent the last two seasons playing for the U.S. National Development Team, giving him valuable experience as a 15- and 16-year-old against junior A competition in the North American Hockey League and then also experience against NCAA DI opponents. Practicing and training at the team’s facilities in Ann Arbor, Mich., Morin had access to top-notch training equipment and instruction, and it shows in the 6’0, 205-pound blueliner’s physique. Along with gaining an appreciation for the importance of training, Morin also gained international experience playing with Team USA at various U16 and U17 tournaments. Most recently, Morin was selected to play for Team USA at the Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta, in January.
Although Morin’s four goals and 10 assists in 52 games are modest numbers, he’s one of the best young puckmoving defensemen in the USHL. Morin consistently make crisp tape-to-tape passes, even through traffic. However, the base of his game is his skating and fitness, which gives him excellent speed, balance, and mobility. His skill also earned him a spot on the Western Conference’s roster for the USHL All-Star Game.
erif”>Long on the collegiate radar screen with the National Developmental Team and one of the top young defense prospects in the USHL in 2005-06, Morin has committed to Harvard. With senior defensemen Peter Hafner (FLA) and Tom Walsh (SJ) due to graduate, Morin could step right into the Crimson’s top six.
A week before Tri-City edged Sioux City out for the final USHL West Division playoff spot, Hockey’s Future caught up with Morin and discussed his time with the National Developmental Team, his progress in the USHL, his commitment to Harvard, and dedication to fitness.
HF: Before playing with the Sioux City Muskateers in the USHL you played two years with the U.S. National Development Team, how was your development at with the Developmental Team?
CM: It was great. Off the ice, they have a weightlifting program there that’s unreal. Obviously, being on the ice with such great players, Jack Johnson, Phil Kessel, Erik Johnson, all these great players, you can’t help but get better playing with players like that.
HF: How do you feel the schedule, playing with the U-17 player against the NAHL and the collegiate teams with the U-18 team, helped prepare you?
CM: You can’t beat it. When you’re playing against the best players you have to be one of the best players. You can’t beat the schedule. If you’re playing a full NCAA schedule at 16 or 17 years old, you can’t beat it.
HF: How about the international experience, what were some of the tournaments you played in?
CM: We went overseas I think six times. We went over there and my second year we were like 11-0 internationally. So, it was a great experience. It was great to get over there, see European hockey, compare yourself to some of those guys and be real competitive.
HF: How does the skill of the USHL and the schedule of the USHL compare with what you were in?
CM: The schedule, I like it because it’s a little more of a pro schedule, it’s a little more like an NHL schedule, which I enjoy. You play for three points every night and it’s real competitive, a little more competitive than the national team, where you’re independent, you’re not in a league. It’s such a great league now. It’s just getting better and better and the players are getting better and better. It’s fun.
HF: Speaking of playing for points, you guys are battling with Tri-City for the last playoff spot in the West.
CM: Yeah, it’s been a push. A lot of people said we couldn’t do it. It’s hard when you go home for Christmas so far back but you come back and you get a goaltender who’s playing well, give us a little confidence on the blue line, our forwards start scoring, everything starts going right and all of the sudden we’re one point behind Tri-City. So, we’re going to make the push.
HF: What made you decide to come to the USHL this year?
CM: You know, I made the decision, I thought I had maxed out what I could get out of the national team. The two years I was there was awesome. I couldn’t have beat some of the development I got there, but I wanted to step into a place where I could play big minutes in big situations and get a little more experience at pro-type schedule.
HF: Having played with the Developmental Team, did you expect to be picked for the Viking Cup team?
CM: There’s no expectations. You go into that tryout and it’s a tryout, like anything you’ve been to since you were 10 years old, you’re playing to make the team. Just because I had played USA Hockey before doesn’t mean anything, because I was playing to make the team.
HF: How did the Viking Cup compare to say the Five Nations and Four Nations tournament?
CM: I thought it was good competition. It was a little different, because there were older players. When you go to the Five Nations and Four Nations, it’s all 88s or 87s and so forth, but we had some 86s in there. I thought it was a good tournament. We did well. We could have done better in the medal round, but it happens.
HF: What did it mean to you to be named to the USHL All-Star Game and how did the skill level of that game compare to what you’ve played?
CM: It was a big-time honor, I thought. It’s my first year in the league. Obviously I wanted to do well, but there’s no guarantee when it comes to an All-Star Game, and it was in Sioux City, so it was a lot of fun. The game was really fun for me because it wasn’t a typical All-Star Game, per se, because there was a lot of hitting and competitive stuff going on. It was fun, I liked it.
HF: What was the Skills Competition like?
CM: It was a little different for me. I was in the Fastest Skater Competition. I think I got screwed, personally (smiling). I think we need some lasers out there to see what’s going on. But, I thought it was fun.
HF: What made you decide to commit to Harvard and play for Ted Donato?
CM: I went in on my visit, and I was looking, I had decision narrowed down to three or four places, and I went into Harvard and sat down with Coach Donato. I’ve really liked the direction he’s taken the program in, and what he described to me about what they’re going to do with their program is something that I’m really looking forward to. They’re producing a lot of pro players. People think Harvard and they think education, education, but that’s wrong. It’s a good hockey program too. They produce quality players, Noah Welch, guys like that. It’s hard to turn down an offer like that.
HF: What do you feel your strengths are as a player?
CM: I try to be good in both ends of the rink. A defenseman who’s an all-purpose defenseman is the best kind. My skating, I feel like it’s one of my strong points. The puckhandling thing in my own zone, I try to make quick passes, a good first pass, good decisions with the puck, play physical in my own zone, and really be competitive every night. That competitive nature is what makes good players great players.
HF: What are some of the things you’ve been working on this year?
CM: At the national time, playing with guys like Jack Johnson and all of those guys, I didn’t get too much power play time and things like that. So, coming here, I’m getting a lot of special teams, a lot of key situations, and that’s what I wanted and I’m getting, and that’s what I’m trying to work on, that exposure in those key situations.
HF: Talking with Coach Siciliano, he says you’re pretty dedicated to your fitness, when did that start?
CM: That was something that was instilled in me when I was at the national program. The key to making it to the next level when at the levels, as you keep getting up the ladder in hockey it gets less players, and less players, and less players. One of the ways to promote yourself and be better and keep climbing the ladder is personal fitness. So, I commit myself in the weight room just as much as I do on the ice. That’s a big part of development.
HF: Any special training methods that you’ve brought from the developmental team to Sioux City and taught the guys there?
CM: Absolutely. We don’t have the guidance in the weight room that we had at the national team. I really push other players. If I’m working out and somebody says, “Hey, what are you doing,” I’ll show them and say, “Here, this is what this is, this is what it does, and you should try it.”
HF: Any particular exercises you’d recommend for hockey players trying to move up?
CM: Front squats. Front squats are the way to go for me. If you want a good stride, front squats.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.