Jordan Hall

Flyers fans, don't be surprised by Morgan Frost … yet

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Photo: Aaron Bell | OHL Images

Flyers fans, don't be surprised by Morgan Frost … yet

Morgan Frost has taken just about the whole gamut by storm.

Whether it's Flyers fans tracking his progress or the hockey world keeping tabs on the game's future, Frost's jump in production would seem staggering to most.

Except for one person.

The guy who sees and knows the 18-year-old's game as well as anybody.

His head coach, Drew Bannister.

"I'm not totally surprised," the Sault Ste. Marie leader said Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Frost, a teenage center the Flyers drafted 27th overall last June, is the primary reason the Brayden Schenn trade doesn't sting as sharply as it could. The Flyers acquired the pick in the deal that sent the 2018 All-Star to the Blues, and while Schenn is on pace for a career season, Frost is in the process of shattering his personal bests in junior.

After putting up 20 goals and 42 assists in 67 regular-season games last year for the Greyhounds, Frost has 27 goals and 44 assists in only 42 games this season. His 71 points lead the OHL, as does his astounding plus-50 rating.

Talk about blowing up, right?

The scary thing is, Bannister isn't blown away. Instead, Frost may be sprouting with much more growth in store.

"I don't know if he's made huge strides this season, I think he's just continued his development," he said. "The biggest development I saw for him was probably in his first season here as a 16-year-old — from the first couple of months until after Christmas time was probably the biggest jump I've seen with Morgan. I think Morgan is just a little bit more comfortable in the position that he's been put in with his linemates and being a No. 1 centerman on his team here compared to the past couple of seasons. I think that took a little bit of time to adjust to, but now he's more comfortable, obviously playing some real good hockey and has for quite a stretch here now."

In 2016-17, Frost enjoyed feeding Bruins 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn, who scored 42 goals on the wing before graduating to the pro ranks. So, last summer, Frost said he wanted to show he could do more than just pass — that his offensive game was expansive, that he could make a difference on the penalty kill and prove his defensive worth, as well.

This season has been his chance and Frost is flourishing.

"Morgan has had a little bit more opportunity this year than he has in the past and we're starting to use him more on the penalty kill and he's been very responsible," Bannister said. "We hold Morgan accountable to be better defensively. His all-around game, especially his play away from the puck, has gotten better. Not that it was poor before then, but I just see a more committed player away from the puck, the way he tracks pucks down. For him, he's creating more offense for himself and his linemates right now playing that way, and he's recognizing that, too."

Sault Ste. Marie implements a style in which it utilizes its skilled players on the penalty kill, resulting in greater pressure on the opponents' power play with the shorthanded unit looking to attack instead of ice the puck. Frost and company have parlayed that tactic into a league-leading 16 shorthanded goals and a top-10 PK (81.5 percentage). The team also won 23 straight games and is atop the OHL at 37-3-2.

"When you're down a man, you want to make sure that you have players on the ice that are making the right reads," Bannister said.

"Putting a guy like Morgan Frost in that opportunity this year certainly works in our favor. He's been doing a good job on it."

That's on top of Frost and his linemates, Boris Katchouk and newly acquired Taylor Raddysh (both NHL second-round picks), making for a matchup nightmare.

"They're seeing the best defensive pairing and they're seeing checking lines or another team's top line," Bannister said. "It's impressive that line and Morgan himself are able to defend and create offense against other teams' best players.

"What stands out for Morgan is his hockey IQ. It doesn't matter who you put him with, he's just going to make them better players."

Those abilities are what could make Frost a sleeper to crack the Flyers' roster next season as a 19-year-old rather than play a fourth campaign of junior hockey. If 2017-18 is any indication, it's that Frost is coming along … and pretty darn quickly.

"For me, he's going to play in the NHL, there's no question about that, it's just when is it?" Bannister said. "Nothing surprises me these days, but he could be in the lineup as early as next year. Who knows, right?"

Bannister hasn't been surprised by Frost.

He might know best.

LeBron James has royal message about Ben Simmons

LeBron James has royal message about Ben Simmons

One day, LeBron James will eventually relinquish his throne.

Sounds like he knows who's fit to be king.

While Ben Simmons and the Sixers impressively raced out to a 22-point lead over the Celtics in London on Thursday, James was clearly watching.

And casting his All-Star vote, too.

King James took to Twitter to give Simmons some love, while voting for the Sixers' rookie in the process (and to boot, the vote counts for two).

"He definitely got next," James tweeted.

When LeBron James is tweeting about you, you're doing something right.

Simmons has done plenty right so far through 38 contests. The 6-foot-10 point guard with a James-like game is averaging 16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists.

The 21-year-old is also tight with James as both are represented by the same agency, Klutch Sports Group.

“I'm honored that a young, gifted kid like himself would allow me to even be a part of his life and be able to mentor him and be like a big brother to him,” James said in late November. “So I'm honored by that and I will continue to do that as long as he would like me to.”

Before the Sixers took the O2 Arena hardwood and blew their lead en route to a 114-103 loss to the Celtics, there was an All-Star ballot update, which showed Simmons had climbed in the polls.

James then added to it with a vote from his throne.

Call it the King's approval.

Were the Flyers snubbed for All-Star Game?

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AP Images

Were the Flyers snubbed for All-Star Game?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Were the Flyers snubbed for the All-Star Game?

Dougherty
It's easy to find a gripe here since the Flyers had three viable candidates, but Claude Giroux will be the Flyers' lone All-Star representative at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game (see story).

Giroux makes his fifth All-Star Game and his 52 points are second in the league. That's fine and dandy, and since the Metropolitan Division is loaded, this was inevitable.

Sean Couturier's breakout season wasn't enough to earn him his first All-Star appearance, and it's a shame. It probably won't be the only honor he'll get snubbed from this season, either. The politics of NHL award voting are corrupt.

Couturier has 23 goals, which is fourth in the NHL and a career high. He has 42 points, which is also a career high. We could argue Couturier is behind Giroux's resurgence too.

All three deserve to be All-Stars, but that's not how it works. Only one Flyer made it when two probably should. Giroux's back to producing at a high-end level, but if there was going to be only one Flyers representative, I would have liked for it to have been Couturier.

Hall
This shouldn't come as a terrible surprise.

The selection of the All-Star rosters is a reputation-driven process. Outside of the fan-voted captains, the players are picked by the NHL hockey operations staff.

So when it came down to the most-deserving Flyers, Giroux likely jumped out. He's a face of the NHL, the name certainly has cachet and the captain is thriving in a rebound season featuring 52 points, tied for second in the NHL.

While Couturier's breakout season is duly noted in the Delaware Valley, it might not shine as brightly among the league and star-studded division. If Couturier continues to replicate his numbers down the line, then he'll become an All-Star at some point.

If anyone was truly snubbed, it's Jakub Voracek. The guy leads all of hockey in assists (43) and is tied for third in points (51). But not every team gets multiple representatives and Giroux, the trademark Flyer, was more than worthy.