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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: Is Morgan Frost a high-end forward prospect?

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A surprise pick late in the first round of this year’s draft, Frost looks to take a big step forward this year.

Kate Frese / SB Nation

If you’ve been following along in our 25 Under 25 series so far, you might be at the point where you can guess all of the remaining 16 names that will be featured in our countdown. This comes as a contrast to the first two weeks or so of this series, during which time there’s some mystery and intrigue not just in who’s ranked where, but who even makes the countdown at all.

Everyone featured up until now is, you could argue, someone that still has a lot to prove, someone that could be left off of one’s ballot without that much objection, someone that could just totally flame out and not surprise that many people in doing so.

We may, however, be reaching the point where a keen observer of the Flyers’ pipeline knows with certainty what the last however-many names are. We’re nearing the range of the first-round picks, the high-end prospects, and the closest to “sure things” that the Flyers have. These are the guys that fans are already penciling into the Flyers’ 2020 opening-night roster, as opposed to the ones who they’re generally a bit more cautious on.

But there may still be one skater caught in between those two groups, one who has the first-round pedigree and the theoretical upside that comes with that but still remains a bit of an unknown in the eyes of the fanbase and has some things to prove at the amateur levels. Which brings us to the Flyers’ most recent first-round pick, Morgan Frost.

No. 16: Morgan Frost

Position: C
Age: 18 (5/14/1999)
Acquired Via: 2017 NHL Draft -- Round 1, Pick 27 (Pick acquired from St. Louis along with a first-round pick in 2018 and Jori Lehtera in exchange for Brayden Schenn on June 23, 2017)
2016-17 League/Team/Statistics: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 20 G, 42 A in 67 GP
Nationality: Canadian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2017 25 Under 25: N/A (was not in system)

The story of how Frost became a Philadelphia Flyer is one we all know by now, as a stunning draft-night trade sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for a pair of first-round picks and forward Jori Lehtera. And on draft night, the immediate reaction to the selection of Frost often looked like more a reaction to who he wasn’t, rather than who he was. There were some big-name prospects still available at that pick in the draft, including Central Scouting’s top-ranked European skater (Klim Kostin) and a lottery-talent goal-scoring winger (Eeli Tolvanen).

Trading a top-6 winger to get back into the first round and then using that pick on Frost, given the alternatives that were available, shows that the Flyers really liked what the center from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds brings to the table. You could say that they may have done so in the face of the general consensus surrounding the 2017 NHL Draft, based on where Frost was ranked relative to his peers (via):

- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #61 by Hockeyprospect.com
- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #72 by ISS Hockey
- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #55 by Future Considerations
- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #41 by McKeen's Hockey
- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #31 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
- 2017 NHL Entry Draft: Ranked #38 by TSN/McKenzie

Those rankings paint the picture of an early-to-mid-2nd-round prospect, rather than that of a first-rounder. Clearly, the Flyers saw something in Frost that many other teams did not. One could possibly label Frost as a “classic Flyers pick” — a center seen as a smart, responsible two-way player who maybe doesn’t have the high-end offensive production to his name just yet, not unlike recent first-round picks Scott Laughton and German Rubtsov — and they would probably not be very off-base in doing so. Frost fits a kind of mold that we know the Flyers like, one that has had mixed results in recent years, and that could be another reason why the fan reaction to his selection was a bit lukewarm at first.

Still, Frost — who measured at 5’10.75” and 173 pounds at the combine (via) — brings an intriguing skill set to the table. In watching Frost a bit (which you can do in the video at the bottom of this post!), the two things that most immediately stick out are his skating and his passing/playmaking ability. He can get up and down the ice with ease, and has little trouble finding his teammates for open looks while doing so.

This skillset does fit with what the numbers show on Frost. Via prospect-stats.com, Frost was 4th among draft-eligible OHL forwards in assists per game, only finishing behind fellow first-rounders Robert Thomas, Nick Suzuki, and Gabe Vilardi. And there are more encouraging signs: at 5-on-5, Frost led all forwards in that same group in primary assists per game, and only finished 3rd when looking at all assists because of a very low secondary assist rate. While secondary assists aren’t totally meaningless, they are a bit more subject to randomness than primary assists, and the fact that Frost is posting superior primary assist totals to those of his peers is a good sign moving forward.

Canucks Army’s Ryan Biech pulled together a solid pre-draft scouting report on Frost, who was their site’s 45th-ranked prospect heading into the draft. Their models peg Frost’s most likely NHL outcome as that of a bottom-six forward, and describes a player that has had some success in juniors and is an adept playmaker but who at this time still has some work to do and some things to prove if he wants to reach his realistic ceiling and become a top-9 NHLer.

Biech’s report also brings up a challenge (or opportunity?) that Frost will deal with this coming season: some graduations from a talented Greyhounds team. Two of Frost’s most common wingers this past season were Bruins 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn and overager Bobby MacIntyre, both of whom topped a point a game in the regular season and both of whom will be moving on from the OHL this year.

On the one hand, losing talented teammates is always tough, and it remains to be seen how Frost will work with other players at his wings. If you’re a pessimist, maybe you really need to see him keep his production up this coming season without those two talents by his side before you can get excited about him.

But on the other hand, this could open up the opportunity for Frost to take on even more responsibility. Maybe he’ll be forced to shoot the puck a bit more, something that he didn’t do that much this past season. At the very least, he should expect to get more ice time, which is exactly what you want any 18-year old project getting in amateur leagues.

With all of this said, the question remains: exactly how good is Frost? At some points, you see the talent level and statistical profile of a solid B+ or even an A- level forward prospect; from another angle, you could see (to use another word from the scouting report above) an unflashy guy that may never be more than a third-liner. It’s a question that we’re going to be spending the next two years trying to get a good answer to as we watch Frost take on more responsibility with Soo.

Our own Charlie O’Connor touched on this subject a bit in his July development camp recap, saying that the Barrie, Ontario native bounced back from an unimpressive first day with a very strong second and third day there (emphasis mine):

To start, his top-end speed is stellar. But just as important as his skating ability is the fact that he showed no problem executing high-difficulty puck handling moves while at that impressive top gear. The puck was glued to his stick on rush drills, and Frost didn’t have to sacrifice any speed to do it. He also showcased good passing vision in 3v2 drills, finding open men even while under heavy pressure from checkers. Frost simply looked like an obvious first-round talent, which is reassuring considering the fact that many fans viewed him as something of a reach with the No. 27 selection. He came the closest out of the forward prospects to “popping” out at you in the same way that Konecny did during his two camps.

That’s the kind of thing we want to be hearing more of about Frost in the next couple of seasons. At this point, whether Frost is a “classic Flyers pick” or not doesn’t really matter, nor does it matter who he was traded for or who he was drafted over. What matters is whether he can add his name to the long, growing list of high-upside forwards that the Flyers are collecting, both at the NHL level and elsewhere in the farm system.

The hope is that by this time next year, Frost is comfortably in the upper echelon of these rankings — that he’s comfortably on the right side of the gap between the system’s higher-end types and the longer-shots. Can he get there?

How We Voted For Morgan Frost

Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
15 16 18 19 16 14 14 20 n/a 19 16 16

How We Voted At No. 16

Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Wade Allison Morgan Frost Taylor Leier Felix Sandstrom Morgan Frost Felix Sandstrom Scott Laughton Mike Vecchione Robert Hagg Mike Vecchione Morgan Frost Morgan Frost

How The Community Voted For Morgan Frost

Ranking # of Votes
Ranking # of Votes
1 0
2 0
3 0
4 0
5 0
6 4
7 5
8 6
9 10
10 27
11 31
12 53
13 89
14 109
15 93
16 104
17 97
18 81
19 79
20 45
21 48
22 25
23 26
24 20
25 16
NR 66

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Previously on Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2017 25 Under 25: