Photo Credit: Mike Ivall / @M_IvallOJHLI
The Toronto Maple Leafs have shaken up the depth chart a bit today, sending right winger Richard Panik to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Jeremy Morin. Both players are 24-year-old second-round picks from the 2009 entry draft and have been playing for their American Hockey League affiliates all season.
Panik was originally acquired by the Leafs on waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 9th, 2014; just in time for the start of the 2014/15 season. Panik played 76 games for the Leafs in that year, scoring 11 goals and adding six assists in offensively-pointed, but infrequent minutes. His most frequent forward linemates included Nazem Kadri, Trevor Smith, and Peter Holland; basically, whichever centre they could put him with outside of Tyler Bozak.
His 1.02 points per 60 minutes played at 5-on-5 were ninth-highest out of Toronto’s 17 players to play 500+ minutes last season. His 47.7% Corsi-For percentage was slightly above the team’s rate without him on the ice (46.3%). Panik saw some time on the powerplay and penalty kill but was used relatively sparingly in both regards.
This year, Panik has had a resurgence in offensive productivity on the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Waived the day before the Leafs began the Frank Corrado stalemate, Panik has been one of the Marlies’ top playmakers, picking up 25 points in 33 games, including the overtime winner today. Our recap of today’s Marlies game actually goes into more detail about his season, in almost foreshadowing fashion.
Coming back to the Leafs is Jeremy Morin; who is actually being traded by the Blackhawks for the second time in his career. The Hawks previously traded Morin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Leafs defenceman Tim Erixon, before receiving him again as part of the return for Brandon Saad.
Making the situation weirder, Morin wasn’t even drafted by the Blackhawks. Originally drafted with a pick that the Atlanta Thrashers acquired from Montreal, Morin spent his Draft+1 year with the Kitchener Rangers before being traded to Chicago in the Dustin Byfuglien trade, as part a package that included former Leafs forward Joey Crabb and a pick the Hawks used to draft current Marlies defenceman Justin Holl.
With all of these transactions considered, Morin has spent the bulk of his career playing for the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate. In 236 AHL games, Morin has scored 90 goals and picked up just as many assists, for 180 total points.
The Hawks have given Morin cups of coffee in parts of six NHL seasons, ranging from three (11/12, 12/13) games to 24 (2013/14). Morin produced at a rate of 2.9 even strength points per 60 minutes with the Blackhawks in 2013/14, but was scratched for weeks before being traded to Columbus after going pointless in fifteen appearances. In those games, Morin played more than nine minutes just twice.
Columbus gave him a bit more of an opportunity, but he couldn’t replicate the success he had playing with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Morin was bounced around the Blue Jackets’ lineup with staggering frequency; his most frequent linemates were Ryan Johansen and Matt Calvert, but even those weren’t terribly long-long lasting stints.
Both 24, yet to see NHL mins this yr & have averaged ~0.75 PPG in the A. JM more eff at NHL level but less exposure pic.twitter.com/kgfh6evR7N
— Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) January 4, 2016
This year, Morin hs 9 goals and 13 assists in 22 games with the IceHogs, good for first on his team in points and second in goals. Scouting reports have labeled him as a goal scorer throughout his career, and he’s backed that up in the past; he lead Rockford in goals in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, led the US Under 18-team in 2009, and was second on his team to Jeff Skinner in his lone OHL season. Dating back to his teens, Morin has been relied upon to put the puck in the back of the net. This year, he’s averaged 0.6 more shots on goal per game than Panik.
Unfortunately, Morin’s development was stunted in a few ways in the 2010/11 season. For starters, the cap-strapped Blackhawks used him as their go-to forward injury call up due to his low salary, leading to him seeing fewer minutes than a player his age should, and affording him no opportunity to get used to a group of teammates or a system. Chicago then sent him to the World Juniors, where he played four games for Team USA. Once he came back, though, he suffered a major concussion, which resulted him missing nine months of action.
Morin, for what it’s worth, was unhappy being back in the Hawks organization for a second tour of duty. He believed he was getting a fresh start in Columbus after being given up on and ruled out of Chicago’s plans, which made a return to a team that arguably had more depth than when he left a bit awkward.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with both of these players. It’s apparent that they can both contribute at the AHL level, though it seems unlikely that either will reach their NHL potential. Maybe a change of scenery could work for one or both of them; the Leafs might like Morin’s physicality and willingness to go to the net, a staple in their current play style while Panik’s passing and cycling abilities and might make him a budget-conscious choice for Chicago’s system. I don’t think either team is really going for a home run here, but both sides get an equally talented player that fit their present motives.