There was a moment in Thursday’s game in Toronto where I saw a different Morgan Frost. No, it wasn’t the pretty finish off an odd-man rush to give him his career-best third straight game with a goal. It was hardly even a highlight.
Frost carried the puck on his backhand across the offensive blue line with a defender in tow. He had an easy option to chip the puck around the boards to avoid a bad turnover and live to fight another day, but that wasn’t what he chose to do. He stopped, repositioned his skates to face the center of the ice, and fired a pass to the weakside defenseman who released a shot from the top of the left circle.
It’s pretty easy to see the eight points over seven games and regain some optimism for a player who was once one of the team’s top prospects, but this was a confident play from a skilled player that made me think this run might be a bit more than a nice run of puck luck.
While Chuck Fletcher might be keeping track of the playoff race, those of us occupying four dimensions have viewed this season as an opportunity to evaluate who might be a keeper for when this team is actually ready to compete. This has made the last few weeks interesting for Frost. While the streak is fun, is it sustainable? Is he finally positioning himself as a part of this team’s long-term core?
It’s easy to view Frost as young, but the reality is that he’s just inexperienced. Frost was drafted more than five years ago and this will likely be his first full season spent in the NHL. Considering the dire situation here, it’s easy to question how many teams would give him this much rope. When Frost was drafted, a lot of fans wanted Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen went three picks later, outperformed Frost, and was waived by Nashville earlier this month. Frost, who still only has 37 points in 111 career games, might be running out of chances in Philadelphia.
Frost has shown promise before. In 2019-20, he put up seven points in his first 16 games in a cup of coffee, but had the luxury of playing cushy minutes with Claude Giroux for much of that run. He finished last season with four points in five games, though much of the credit for his line’s play was given to newcomer Noah Cates. Not that it’s a high bar to clear, but this is the most productive stretch of Frost’s career.
Eight games isn’t much of a sample size, but let’s take a look at his 5-on-5 performance to try to see if it’s legit (stats at 5-on-5 and courtesy of NaturalStatTrick).
So, an uptick in high-danger chances, but his individual numbers aren’t taking huge leaps across the board.
But Frost is better known for his puck handling and vision than his goal scoring. Has he driven play? In short, yes, though this is where it gets murky.
On the season, and similar to last year, Frost’s Corsi and expected goal numbers are slightly better relative to the rest of the team, though hardly glistening. That changed over the past few weeks. Know what else did? Frost’s linemates.
James van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup December 7 and joined Frost and Owen Tippett on a line that’s mostly stayed intact. The trio has been the best the Flyers have used all season.
They have a 56.79 Corsi percentage and 58.82 expected goal percentage, both the best among any line the Flyers have deployed more than 50 minutes.
Now, he’s van Riemsdyk and not van Lindros, but the 14-year veteran (wait that can’t be right…oh my god time comes for us all) has a history of strong play driving. It is impossible to parse causation and correlation with how Frost has performed with JVR’s return. Maybe Frost has been better. Maybe it’s just solid linemates. Perhaps he needs the help of skilled players to teammates to produce. If nothing else, it’s better than the alternative of not producing with anyone.
So, I’m going to pull back the curtain. Considering Frost produced almost a quarter of his career points in about a two-week stretch, I really thought I’d reach a more definitive conclusion. Now, I feel that’d be disingenuous.
When I saw Frost make that pass against the Leafs I wanted to believe he’s hitting another level and seeing the game differently. Over the next few months, we’re going to find out if he actually is.