When the Flyers first called up Morgan Frost back in late November, general manager Chuck Fletcher mentioned having some reservation.
The 22-year-old prospect was starting to hum at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, putting up three goals and 10 assists over his last 10 games. The development was clicking, exactly what the Flyers had wanted: Frost playing, building confidence and staying in a pattern.
"There was a little hesitation, from my end, in bringing up Morgan Frost last week because he was really starting to go," Fletcher said Nov. 30. "And I kept thinking, 'Gees, another two or three weeks would be great.' But you get to a point, you have to reward the right player."
The Flyers didn't have much of a choice. They were down two centers in Kevin Hayes and Derick Brassard and were desperate for offense. And Frost, a playmaking center, was performing like the Phantoms' best player.
But Frost developing and experiencing normalcy in Lehigh Valley for months, if not a full season, felt like the perfect world that eluded all parties.
On Monday, just over three months from his initial call-up, Frost was sent down to the Phantoms. The Flyers have gotten healthier at center (Brassard, Patrick Brown) and along the wing (Joel Farabee). They could get another center (Kevin Hayes) and winger (Wade Allison) back in the picture soon, possibly later this week.
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Before Frost's healthy scratch Saturday, he had been centering the Flyers' third line, most often between Gerry Mayhew and Max Willman. He had also seen stints with James van Riemsdyk, Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny.
The 2017 first-round pick has a top-six skill set. Playing him with top players, like a Claude Giroux or Cam Atkinson, can certainly help his game.
"We haven't had that luxury," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said Monday. "We just didn't.
"We didn't have any centermen. I'm not going to play him on wing and I'm not going to play G on wing when we had completely no centermen."
After all, injuries at center are why Frost was summoned to the Flyers. They needed help there. The club had been marred by injury — especially down the middle of the ice — and needed Giroux and Frost at center.
"I think that he was in the right place," Yeo said. "We've tried to work with what we've had. I know that he's in a good spot going down there and I know he's in a good spot as far as his development goes."
At the end of the day, Frost had started struggling to produce. It's tough to fall back on the crutch of who he's playing with. It's a part of the equation, but it can't be all of it. Since Jan. 1, Frost had no goals and two assists in 18 games and 13:09 minutes per game. Overall, he's had 30 games with the big club this year (two goals, five assists). Having him back in a major role with the Phantoms right now won't stunt his development.
It should help.
"It's kind of cliché, but I'm just trying to do the little things right," Frost said six days ago. "That's kind of what's been harped to me a little bit is take care of your own end. I'm honestly just trying to compete and win more battles than normal. Maybe some of the offense isn't coming for me right now, but I think if I can show that I can play consistently at both ends of the ice, play in my own end, do the little things, then hopefully that'll keep me up here."
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As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and his shoulder injury last season, Frost had played only two pro hockey games over a span of 560-plus days before his three preseason games ahead of this year.
With the 16-26-10 Flyers set to "aggressively retool" by the March 21 trade deadline, there's a good chance Frost will be back with the big club at some point before this 2021-22 season is over.
"When I had a little sit-down with him there this morning, there are so many positives that I've seen," Yeo said. "I think the main thing for him is don't be discouraged by going down right now. It's an opportunity to work on one side of it; obviously there's the side up here where you're forced to be on minute after minute, you can't take a shift off. I'm urging with him, we're urging with him and pleading with him to try to keep that same type of mentality, which will allow him, in my opinion, to dominate at that level.
"The other part of the conversation is it's tough to get confidence, it's tough to build that confidence, that offensive confidence in this league. This is an unforgiving league where you're playing against the best defenders night after night. So there's an opportunity for him there to go out and build that into his game.
"This is what's right for Morgan, there's no question that this is what's right. There's a good chance that he could end up back in our lineup very soon. Really, that's the message to him. You have to treat every single day that you're down there as a way of preparing for that moment when you're getting back up here. The confidence has been shown to him, it's been relayed to him, that I have in him, that the organization has in him. ... He just has to go down and continue to take advantage of that opportunity to play, build the confidence that so when he comes up here, his goal should be to never go back there again. That's what we're cheering for here."
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