USHL - Eastern

Youngstown Phantoms Make Splash With High-End Zachary Morin Signing

Youngstown Phantoms Make Splash With High-End Zachary Morin Signing

The team announced the signing for the 2023-24 season, landing a player widely considered to be one of the top prospects in the 2025 NHL Draft.

Jan 26, 2023 by Ryan Sikes
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The Youngstown Phantoms look poised to make a run for first place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, and as exciting as their recent play on the ice has been, there is plenty of excitement off it. 

Earlier this week, the team announced the signing of forward Zachary Morin to a tender agreement for the 2023-24 season, landing a player widely considered to be one of the top prospects in the 2025 NHL Draft. 

Morin is the second big-ticket player to tender with Youngstown this season, joining defenseman Sacha Boumoudienne, who signed in November.

Morin, who turned 16 on Tuesday, features a unique combination of size and speed. He's also extremely physical, unafraid to go into the hard areas of the ice and win a puck battle. At 6-foot-2, 174 pounds, the Lachenanie, Quebec, native has posted ridiculous numbers this season, scoring 94 points in 56 games with the Little Caesars 15U AAA team. 

Despite being projected as the first-overall pick in June’s QMJHL Draft, the young forward felt that his skillset closely aligned with the fast-paced style of the USHL.

“He skates extremely well," Phantoms co-general manager Jason Deskins said of Morin. 

"He's got great hands, a really good stick, can shoot a puck, can make a play. But he's hard, and he's physical.

“He should acclimate to our league relatively quickly because he does have the body type and the skating to do it, and his style of play is going to be a really good fit for the USHL.”

The young forward’s path to Youngstown began as soon as he joined the Little Caesars 15U club. Deskins—who is also the head coach for the Little Caesars 16U team—had learned that Morin was coming in and despite coaching a year above him, made him a priority early in the process.

Deskins and Morin crossed paths several times a week, with the two clubs sharing the same facility. The latter even had the opportunity to practice and play in a few games with the 16U team. 

The Phantoms brass wanted to ensure that the young forward was comfortable with every aspect of what a typical day might look like for one of its players.

“Zach came into Youngstown to live it and breathe it and go through our skill development sessions and go through our off-ice development sessions, and then ultimately practice with the guys and get to stay in a billet,” Phantoms head coach Ryan Ward said. 

Morin’s speed is one of his most noticeable traits at such a young age, but he was humbled observing first-hand how fast the pace of play is in the USHL. In practice, he quickly developed chemistry with William Whitelaw and Jake Rozzi, two players he could‌ be playing with next year.

The young forward was impressed with what the Youngstown staff had to offer, making it a relatively simple decision to sign.

“I think the organization is awesome. I really like Ryan (Ward) and the fact that they showed a lot of love and rapport,” Morin said. 

“I think our main goal is the same—we want to win a Clark Cup.”

In its 12th year, the USHL tender process allows teams to sign up to two U16 players in return for their first- and second-round draft picks in the 2023 USHL Phase I Draft. Like Boumoudienne, Morin will be on the Phantoms roster next year and must play at least 55 percent of the team’s regular season games, notwithstanding injury, illness, or suspension.

Organizations use the tender agreement on players that can benefit them but may end up being drafted earlier by another team. Players get more control over the decision-making process since it removes the ambiguity surrounding where they will be selected in the draft.

The Youngstown front office shares the same vision of utilizing the tender agreement as much as possible to bring in young, high-end talent that can make an immediate impact in Year 1, with the hope of being dominant players in their second season with the club.

Deskins noted that tendering two players is something that the organization aims to do every year, utilizing the Phase I draft to later pull players off their affiliate list on a year-to-year basis.

In doing this, roster needs would be minimal.

The Youngstown faithful will get their first look at Morin, who will be attending the Phantoms' two-game homestand against the first-place Chicago Steel this weekend. 

Looking ahead to next season, the young forward hopes he can help the team win right away.

“I just want to be a great teammate, and I would love to win the Clark Cup. Honestly, that’s the main goal,” he said.