Puck luck, housemates, and frozen pizzas: on life in the AHL for Morgan Frost

Life in a new league is a lot to manage.

It’s a whole new world for Morgan Frost.

The Flyers’ second first round pick from 2017 has finally made it to the pros, and is finding himself left to navigate the crash course that is adjusting to life and play in the AHL. Frost has already seen something of the first growing pains of professional hockey, starting the preseason with Philly and then the regular season in Lehigh looking so snake bitten that I was starting to wonder if he’d done something to have a curse placed on him by a witch at some point in the offseason.

It would be easy to panic about something like this, but you’d be hard pressed to find a whole lot of panic when it comes to Frost. It would all work itself out in time. “Yeah, I mean definitely a lot of chances [that I’ve been getting], but I think that’s a positive at the same time,” he said after the Phantoms’ October 11th game, “I mean, when you’re getting chances like that, it’s better than not getting them. But, I don’t know, [I’m] a little snake bitten right now, but I’m pretty happy with my play, so I think I just have to keep playing that way and eventually they’ll start going in.” It might feel a little trite to talk about trusting the process at this point, but that was the task at hand.

This process—which saw him average a 53.73 CF% and 88.89 Controlled Entry% over his first four games before he scored his first goal—was sound, and just as Frost predicted, started to pay dividends. In his last three games, he’s registered two goals and an assist, bringing his season points total up to six, while still maintaining sound underlying numbers (a 52.42 CF% and 80.95 Controlled Entry%). The pieces are all starting to come together for him, it seems.

But there’s still a lot to learn, and he’s doing his best to take it all in. He’s getting there slowly, he said last week, “I’m definitely not completely comfortable yet, but I think the older guys on the team have really made it easy for a young guy to kind of come in and enjoy himself and kind of just do his thing.”

Because it’s not just about learning how to play against older, bigger, and perhaps more skilled players at this next level, it’s about becoming a more well rounded professional. It’s all in the details, “getting to the rink early, and you get all your work done in the morning, you do everything, and then you go and have the day, which is a lot different schedule than I had in junior. I think just the consistency, you have to bring it every day, so I think those are things I’m learning and trying to work on.” It’s hard to overstate all that goes into adjusting to joining a new league and learning the ropes there, but it’s all about taking it one step at a time, it seems.

But just as big of an adjustment as acclimating to playing against grown men? Learning how to be a grown up himself.

“I think getting adjusted to being an adult, it’s definitely kind of weird. I mean, in junior, you have billets, so, you know, I wasn’t doing too much of my own laundry or cooking for myself. I’m trying to learn as much as I can because I’m living with two other guys on the team who are pretty good with that stuff, and I’m pretty lost, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from them, and I guess, yeah, trying to turn myself into an adult.”

It’s a tough go, picking up all of those life skills he mentioned on the fly, but there’s progress being made—“like last night,” he added, “I put a frozen pizza in the oven, so I’m making strides.”

And those other two guys that he has for support are fellow rookies Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, all sharing a house up in Lehigh Valley. And, talking about it, maybe my face betrayed some feelings about that, we both had a good laugh before acknowledging that this group certainly seems like an interesting one. “We’re all fairly similar, but I think at the same time, we also all have a little bit of different personality. But we’re all really good friends and we get along well, and that makes it fun in the house.”

And fun certainly seems the right word for the situation—with all of the down time that the players get once they’ve wrapped up their business for the day, there’s a lot of free time left to be filled. How are they eating up the time?

“Recently we’ve been trying to get stuff for the house, get furniture figured out and all that stuff. But after that, it’s just spending time with the guys. Like we’ll go home and watch a movie together or something. Or right now… we’ve got a basketball net outside so we’re trying to get out as much as we can before it gets a little too cold, and just enjoy the weather. But I think there’s a great group of guys here, if you want to just hang out after practice, and do whatever, you can do that, but at the same time if you want to do your own thing and just go chill, I got a lock on my door, so I can go in there and just hang out.”

It’s all about striking that proper balance, seems to be the idea, knowing when friend time is good and when alone time is better. But like with any new housemate situation, there’s bound to be a bit of tension, especially when it comes to the dreaded furniture assembly time, and as is the case with many new housemates, they haven’t quite made it through without a bit of bickering. “There’s been a couple [instances]… but it’s gonna happen. You’re living together, you get on each other’s nerves a bit.” He was quick to add that they’re all still really good friends, and, as anyone who’s lived with roommates before can attest to, it’s just something that’s bound to happen. But having stressors like ambiguous furniture assembly instructions certainly don’t help. “I think we were fighting more with the instructions than with each other. We probably had to go through about fifteen times.”

It’s a lot to manage, getting adjusted to being a professional and an adult, and all of the extra stuff that’s wrapped up with that, but at least he’s not alone in it. Beyond Ratcliffe and Strome, Frost is pretty well surrounded by other young players. And if nothing else, it’s comfortable. “Before I even got drafted to Philly, I was friends with [Ratcliffe] and [Strome], and even just shortly after we got drafted, I became close with Sushko, [Bunnaman], all those guys, everyone, and we’re kind of coming up together. So it makes it easier when you kind of have guys that you’ve been pretty close friends with for a couple of years and share this young guy experience with them.”

And it’s hard to leave this on a better note than that. Because, while it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of all of this—the Phantoms being set to be a good team, and loaded with good prospects, which makes for a promising future for the Flyers—it’s more than just that. As Frost said, it’s a group of friends who are coming up, learning the ropes, and working on their development, both as players and people, and who are getting to do it together.

All stats via the AHL.com, PhancyStats, and my neutral zone tracking project.