There has been an interesting development in the junior hockey ranks, as the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL announced an agreement with Zachary Morin for the 2023-24 season.
Morin, 15, currently plays for the Little Caesars AAA program that had helped produce a number of high-level NHL talents, like Jason Robertson, Jakob Chychrun, and Zach Werenski. He was recently rated an “A” prospect for the QMJHL draft, and expected to go near the very top (if not first overall). Youngstown general managers Jason Deskins and Ryan Kosecki explain why:
[Zachary] is a world-class player. There is a reason some have projected him as the potential first overall draft pick in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He is big, skilled, smart, and can fly, yet he plays a heavy, power forward game that will translate to every level. This kid has an NHL frame and the tools to go along with it. We are fortunate to have Zachary in a Phantoms jersey. It’s a great day for our program.
When they say Morin has an NHL frame, they don’t mean he’s projected to grow into one. The young forward, who will turn 16 later this month, is already 6’2″ and towers over much of his competition. He has 41 goals and 94 points in 56 games for his midget team, and already uses his size effectively to power through opponents.
The Phantoms will surrender a second-round pick in the USHL draft to sign Morin, who will remain eligible for the NCAA by going this route. He is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2025, meaning there is still plenty of time to get a better read on his NHL future. Still, this is a rather surprising move for a player who would have received plenty of opportunity in the QMJHL.