Morgan Frost is certainly heating up. After a decidedly pretty slow, pretty frustrated start to his season with the Phantoms, Frost is finding another gear and finding a way to dominate in the AHL. He picked up four points (two goals and two assists) on the weekend against Rochester and Toronto, two of the top teams in the North Division, adding to a stellar run which has seen him put up 13 points in his last 10 games. The counting stats continue to impress, but so do the underlying numbers—Saturday in Toronto he served as one of the team’s most dynamic play drivers, putting up a 71.43 CF%, 80 SCF%, and 100 HDCF% at 5-on-5. Things are really clicking right now, and his game is a real treat to watch.
The Phantoms’ offense has been struggling so far this season, and the list of ways they’re getting it is pretty limited. But one of the keys to what they have been getting so far is pretty easily summed up as “get the puck to Frost and let him get to work.” His toolkit is a robust one, but he certainly had a move that he was favoring this weekend, and for good reason—it was working. Early in the second period in Rochester we saw him try a nifty little deke and curl around the defender to get a shot off from the left circle, but there wasn’t enough there to beat the goaltender, but no matter, the idea was good and he tried something similar again not even four minutes later and got a goal out of it.
It was a confident play, and that confidence just seemed to build even more into the next game in Toronto. As an unsuccessful power play was winding down and Frost had a chance with the puck, he showed a nice bit of patience to hold on to it and cut through traffic for a better shooting lane. It was certainly not the Marlies’ best defensive moment, but that doesn’t take away from the skill on Frost’s part to execute on that scoring play.
The scoring is all well and good, but we also know Frost as a really gifted playmaker, and that certainly wasn’t lacking this weekend either. He set up the tying goal on Friday, with the goalie pulled and extra attacker out. Taking the puck at point, he sells the pass back over to Cam York and instead is able to get a shot through traffic. He doesn’t score, but he does create a rebound that Gerry Mayhew picks up and is able to chip in.
He was also pretty singularly responsible for sparking the Phantoms’ offense in the first place in this one. With the Phantoms trailing by two, they had an unsuccessful shift in the offensive zone, and the Marlies were prepared to clear the puck out and end it, but instead lose control of it and loosen it up. Frost is right on that loose puck and moving to get lost behind the net and chipping it towards the slot for a scoring chance. The puck doesn't make it to Garrett Wilson as intended, and the shot Logan Day gets off is easily stopped. But no matter, it nearly worked, and later in the shift, Frost put himself right back behind the net and tried again to get the puck to Wilson in the slot, and he didn't miss this time around.
Frost’s creativity was really on full display here, and we’d be hard pressed to find a clearer sign that his confidence is restored. He’s gotten burned in the past from making no-look backhand passes into space, but he’s being a little smarter about picking his spots, and with that confidence back as well, he’s pulling off those moves. This weekend saw him flexing a nice bit of elusiveness from defenders with quicks cuts away and strength to protect the puck, and those backhand passes add a level of unpredictability as well. He’s drawing defenders in to himself well to create space for his teammates, and he’s still able to win out in those uneven coverages, and the Phantoms are getting more and better chances for that work.
Defense and details
We all know well about Frost offensive game. The skill level has never been a question, we’ve seen it pop at this level before, and while it’s excellent to see it popping for him again, that is has isn’t exactly a surprise. What makes Frost’s play of late so impressive is how well rounded it is. We saw him very engaged this weekend and being a bit of a nightmare on the forecheck, creating a lot of pressure and trouble for his opponents. Like here, this should have been a routine, relatively clean breakout for the Marlies, but Frost pressured well at the point and was able to force a turnover to extend the Phantoms’ offensive zone time. They didn’t get a scoring chance out of it, but the idea was still the right one.
We also saw him taking an active role in defending his own blue line to help out the defensemen, creating more pressure and forcing more turnovers, and making that all look pretty easy as he erases a Marlies chance and is able to get the Phantoms’ breakout started.
His work overall on the penalty kill, too, has been good, and this second clip is an excellent example. He’s been involved in a few shorthanded chances in earlier games, and that’s a whole lot of fun, but the subtleties are just as impressive. Here Frost puts some pressure on the Marlies on the entry attempt, loses the initial battle, but sticks with it and wins the subsequent physical battle (the added strength is evident here too) and is able to clear the puck out. Not flashy, but effective.
But if you’re hoping for a bit more flash, well, he still brought it. Like here, he came in with some speed while Rich Clune tried to settle the puck down for an entry and stripped him of the puck pretty cleanly. There’s some patience on this play, and instead of dumping the puck down ice immediately, he gives it a moment so Wilson can get into place before delivering a perfect stretch pass to spring him on a breakaway. A nice little defensive play and a quick transition to offense, even in the waning minutes of the game when both teams were just trying to get to overtime. No quit here.
Was Frost taking some real heat checks this weekend? Absolutely. And we love to see it, because he clearly has his confidence back, and he’s also playing some of the most well rounded hockey of his professional career. And despite the overall struggles the Phantoms are facing as a team, the AHL is beginning to look easy for Frost.
And given the struggles that the Flyers themselves are facing, this couldn’t come at a better time. The Flyers need help to get their offense going again, and Frost can offer exactly that. But the responsibility that’s been cultivated in his game is a distinct added positive, and it should ease some of the fears that tend to come with inserting a young player into an NHL lineup, particularly when the team is struggling.
Frankly, there’s not much more that Frost is gaining from spending time in the AHL, there’s nothing that the Flyers are gaining from keeping him there, and if the organization would opt to keep him there much longer, it would be baffling. Frost is doing just about everything he can to veritably kick down the door for an NHL job, and it’s time that the Flyers make space for it. There’s no better time than now.
Previously on the prospect film studies series…