The Philadelphia Flyers loaned Morgan Frost back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday afternoon. Frost was called up a week prior due to Joel Farabee being out with an illness. Frost played in two games before Farabee was healthy, and was relegated to the press box as a healthy scratch for the Flyers’ past two games.
Frost earned his promotion after a strong stretch of games in the AHL, and he didn’t play poorly in his two games with the Flyers. He and his linemates impressed against the Panthers after a more up-and-down game against the Capitals. Frost went 9-for-10 in the faceoff dot and hit the post late in the game in Washington, which could’ve gone a long way for the rookie.
The 19-year-old center is good enough to play in the NHL right now, but the Flyers currently have 12 healthy and effective forwards. With Farabee healthy, Frost was the odd man out.
The other candidates to potentially leave the lineup for Farabee have been on fire recently.
Connor Bunnaman, who was called up to fill the fourth-line center role, has been one of the best players on the team since the All-Star Break.
In 75 minutes at 5-on-5 play in eight games since the break, Bunnaman has a team-high 67.09 Expected Goals-for percentage. He is also one of three players with a Corsi-For of 60 percent or higher. Bunnaman had an 80% CF or higher in three of eight games since the break: 87.50% at home against Florida and 83.33% against Detroit and New Jersey.
Frost has a higher ceiling than Bunnaman, but the latter has more of a fourth-line style of play and is playing too well to rationalize coming out of the lineup right now.
The same goes for the other young fourth-liner: Nicolas Aube-Kubel. NAK is one of the other Flyers with a Corsi-For above 60 percent (62.50%) since the break and has the third-best xGF% at 63.63%. He has also chipped in with four points since the break, including three points in the last four games.
The fourth line has arguably been the team’s most consistent recently so it doesn’t make a ton of sense to break them up, even if Frost is the more talented player with a higher ceiling. It won’t hurt Frost’s development for him to play fourth-line minutes, but if the team is rolling with four lines, allowing him to play top minutes in the AHL makes sense.
This won’t be the last we see of Frost this season. He’ll assuredly have another crack at the NHL lineup, whether that be as a result of strong play in the AHL, the Flyers struggling, or some combination of both.
Frost still has the potential to help the Flyers as a pseudo-addition at/after the deadline. Heading down the home stretch and into the playoffs it’s important to put your best players and best four lines on the ice. If Frost keeps up his progression, there’s a great chance he’ll be one of the best 12 forwards available come April (or sooner).