This offseason, it’s evident that the Flyers have a lot of work to do. They’ll need to re-sign key RFA players, bolster their roster by adding via free agency or trade, and subtract talent that have become more burdensome than helpful. However, there are a some high profile youngsters (if I can call them that, most of them are not much younger than me) that are looking to make a push forward and claim a spot come opening day. During exit interviews, GM Chuck Fletcher did not convey the notion that he was leaving spaces open in the roster for young players to claim. However, this doesn’t mean that he is closing those spots. If, say, Morgan Frost or Isaac Ratcliffe plays well enough as to merit a spot over an established player, then you would have to think that with a fresh perspective, the new coach and GM would slot them into the roster. Of course, we don’t yet know what the Flyers are going to do on the trade and free agent markets. But, despite this, guys like Frost are going to be given a shot to make the lineup, and after the season he had, Flyers brass should really be paying attention to him in training camp. Conversely, veteran presence (rolls eyes).
Now, I know I’m not the coach, nor the GM, and they probably know more about the insides and outsides of the game than I do, but I really really like Morgan Frost as a talent. I ranked him higher than any other Broad Street Hockey writer during our 25 under 25, and I have repeatedly claimed that he could become a legitimate elite NHL forward. I know, I know, that’s one bold claim. But I just really like what I see from Frost. His PNHLe rating (an equivalency formula designed to project a prospect’s value) puts him currently at first line potential. The PNHLe calculation determines a rate of change for a player’s point totals (Read more here). I do legitimately think he has a shot at making the roster, either for opening day, or sometime during the course of the season as a call up due to injury, or if he just played his way up. So, without further ado, here are three reasons for and three reasons against Morgan Frost being a Philadelphia Flyer next year:
For #1: Passing ability, with vision to complement it
Morgan Frost is one of the best passers in all of Canadian juniors. In the 2018-19 season, Frost tallied 72 assists, which was the 3th most among the WHL, QJMHL, and Frost’s OHL, where he led in assists. He even beat last year’s total of 70 while playing in 9 less games. You know who else posted a similar assist total in the OHL? Travis Konecny in 2015-16, with 71. The only players with more that year were Dylan Strome, Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner, and Kevin Labanc. Those guys are pretty good NHL players, and Frost’s number aren’t far behind those guys (except Labanc who had an unreal 88 assists). That seems pretty good to me!
This play (from timestamp 0:29) is from the 2017-18 season, but it showcases Frost’s passing ability, among other highlights. Here, Frost is in the trapezoid behind the net, and is able to feed a skater in front for a goal from a backhand:
(In the next play featured in the highlight package, he scores a pretty nice breakaway goal too.)
Against #1: He needs to bulk up
From what I’ve seen, this has been a common phrase said about Frost, especially last year. He has indeed bulked up as well, though he’s far from a built-ready NHL size. Though, I don’t think this is as big a deal as it is made out to be. For comparison, Elias Pettersson, renowned ‘very good hockey player’, is listed at 6’2”, 176 lbs according to Elite Prospects, and he is considered a very small player. Frost is listed at 6’0”, 185 lbs (once again on Elite Prospects). For further context. Martin St. Louis weighs in at 181 lbs (Elite Prospects), and St. Louis was one of the best players of his era. Now, of course, Pettersson has been hurt during his budding NHL career, most notably in the play involving Mike Matheson. However, it can be said that perhaps Pettersson’s style of play warrants him bulking up, especially if he is to continue to dangle around defenders and make moves towards the crease. Frost is much more in the ‘playmaker’ archetype of hockey player, though becoming a bit “thicker” as they say, would certainly not hurt his play, and he could do so in Lehigh Valley.
For #2: Deft hands
I wouldn’t call Frost a goalscorer. He’s more so a playmaker, and his 200 foot style at center means he is never going to be a pure goalscorer. Though, despite this, he has a very slick finishing ability when given the chance. Frost scored 37 goals this season, which was good enough for 15th in the OHL, which left him tied with Avalanche prospect Brandon Saigeon. This was bettered by his 2017-18 season where he scored 42 goals, which left him in 3rd place (tied with Nick Suzuki). Those are some solid numbers!
The first play here, from the most recent world juniors, shows frost scoring on a stolen puck at the blue line. Frost is behind the defense, and he receives the keep/pass from his teammate and puts a very patient dangle on the goaltender. The goalie doesn’t do the best job at getting his pads down on the ice, but Frost shows good patience in front of the net to slide the puck through him. Additionally, on the second play shown, Frost shows that he can shoot as well as dangle. He takes a pass through the middle, and rips a wrist shot past Denmark’s goalie. He puts it right in between the goalie’s pad and blocker, and it hits the post as it goes in.
Overall, the video is a very good compilation of Frost’s skills on the puck. It’s quite relevant for the first point I made as well to be honest. Of course, he’ll have to develop those skills further to beat better goalies at higher levels, but it is very encouraging that he can show this at the world juniors. Overall in the tournament, he had 8 points (4 goals 4 assists) in 5 games. This led team Canada, and left him tied for second most in the tournament for all skaters.
Against #2: Needs to adjust to the pace of professional hockey
This is quite a fair point. I will say that in a lot of Frost’s highlights, he isn’t coasting, but he certainly has time to read plays as they happen. He’ll almost certainly need to adjust to being closed down quicker, and therefore making plays quicker. Frost has been able to find room via his good skating ability and edgework, but he is no burner. Frost certainly has the hands to be a very good NHL playmaker, but will he be able to make those plays in a moment’s instance? Maybe not right away, but as I will detail in the next point, he is well equipped to adjust.
For #3: Mental ability that exceeds his years
Morgan Frost thinks the game of hockey at a very high level. We can clearly see that with his positioning in both the offensive and defensive zone, along with his read of offensive plays that manifests in his assists. However, what is underrated about Frost is his composure when bearing down on goal, and his calmness when pressure is put on him. This is especially evident in the first goal from the world juniors compilation video. He exhibits incredible patience to wait out the goalie and force him to make the first move. You see a lot of young players try to manufacture a spectacular play, but Frost never tries to force anything to happen. Of course, Frost can make some pretty dazzling moves, but he never tries to brute force his brilliance. Because of this, he makes plays look nearly effortless.
Against #3: His role on the Flyers may not be ideal
This last point has nothing to do with Frost’s ability, but more so with where on the Flyers Frost may be put. Of course, having a skilled player on the 4th line is better than a Chris VandeVelde or Dale Weise. However, do you think Frost is going to perform well playing with Michael Raffl and Phil Varone? Maybe, but it’s certainly not ideal. They could always put him on the 3rd line, and give him a good goal scoring winger like James Van Riemsdyk, but I have a sneaking suspicion the 3rd line center job is going to be filled by a player not yet on this roster (or Nolan Patrick is the center is of that caliber).
In the end, Frost’s chances of making the big club boil down to two things: how well he plays in training camp, and on what the Flyers do in the offseason. With enough players on the roster, a spot might not ever be available for Frost barring injury. It is also unclear just how well Frost will have to perform in order to earn himself a roster spot. The additions of Fletcher and Vigneault could give Frost an advantage due to the new perspective they could bring. However, they could also already have their minds set on adding to the roster in free agency and trades, as Vigneault has stated his intentions to ‘win now’. Ultimately, in the end, I’m rooting for Frosty the Goal Man, and I’d be more than thrilled if he makes the club, though I don’t necessarily think time in the AHL would hurt Frost.