Flyers

No longer watching James van Riemsdyk, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost gets eye-opening audition

No longer watching James van Riemsdyk, Flyers prospect Morgan Frost gets eye-opening audition

VOORHEES, N.J. — If Morgan Frost had trouble sleeping last night, it would be completely understandable.

On Wednesday, when he saw his name written next to James van Riemsdyk's, his eyes widened.

"It was pretty cool," he said Thursday.

And for a few reasons.

Not only is this his best chance to showcase himself as he pushes for the Flyers' roster, but he's also playing alongside a guy he watched as a kid.

Growing up in the Toronto area, Frost was a Maple Leafs fan. From 2012-18, van Riemsdyk played for Toronto and delivered a pair of 30-goal seasons. On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the 20-year-old Frost will center van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek in the Flyers' third preseason game.

Pretty cool, huh?

"I was watching the Leafs a lot, so I've watched a lot of him and kind of know what he's about," Frost said of van Riemsdyk. "I like to be a playmaker and he can obviously score goals, so if I can set him up, I think there's a good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net."

Frost is just as excited for the opportunity. He played one preseason game last year before being sent back to his junior club and missed the Flyers' first two exhibition games this week because of a groin injury. If anyone knows that preseason games are precious, it's Frost. 

Here, he gets a golden chance to make an impression on the Flyers' front office and coaching staff. Over the past six seasons, Voracek owns the NHL's seventh-most assists, while van Riemsdyk has scored the league's 19th-most goals.

"You want to put players in a situation where they can have success," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "That's what we're trying to do right now. It does not mean that Frost might not come back at some point and be on a fourth line, but right now, there are some spots that are available."

Leading up to camp, it appeared Frost's best shot at the Flyers was along the wing given the team had a bottom-six opening at the position. With Nolan Patrick's injury, Frost's window of opportunity has opened much more. Vigneault said the Flyers, right now, want to watch Frost at center and see what he can do between high-end talent.

"The battle for the bottom six is, in my mind, fully on," Vigneault said. "It's good. We've got some decisions to make in those positions."

Frost put up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games over his final two junior seasons with the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

"You hear all the scouting reports on him," van Riemsdyk said. "Highly, highly skilled, very productive player, good instincts, smart player."

While Frost watched van Riemsdyk as a fan, Maple Leafs connections helped JVR learn a little bit about the prospect.

"The first time I remember hearing about him was in training camp last year," van Riemsdyk said. "Talking to some of my former teammates in Toronto who had played against him and I heard the same things — super, super skilled, really smart player."

Since being drafted 27th overall by the Flyers in 2017, Frost hasn't had an audition like this one. Just how quickly can he show the Flyers he's ready for the part?

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Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.

 

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Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Suffice it to say Scott Laughton got the best of the Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

He was the first star in the Flyers' 4-3 victory, scored the game-winning goal during the third period, added an assist, stood up for his teammates and got under the skin of Ottawa forward Brady Tkachuk.

So much so that Tkachuk went after Laughton, crosschecking the 25-year-old forward in the back and jumping him during the final minute of regulation. The NHL reacted quickly to the play, fining Tkachuk $2,486.56, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

Following his third-period marker, Laughton had words for the Senators' bench. He was fired up, especially after Ottawa's hits on Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee, which led to some fights. Laughton could not partake in the dropping of the gloves because he recently returned following surgery on a broken finger, which is still healing.


I knew it was coming. It’s part of the game when you do that stuff and chirp the bench, you know it’s going to come. I just can’t drop my gloves right now with my finger and everything. I’ve got some padding there so once I do that, I guess it’s a penalty or something. That’s just the way it went.

- Laughton

But Laughton still had the backs of his teammates. He was physical throughout, especially after the first-period hits on Konecny and Farabee. He also allowed his game to do the talking.

Laughton has four goals in his last six contests and the Flyers are 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of the finger injury.

Would Laughton have liked to fight?

"Yeah," he said.

He did plenty enough.

Tkachuk's crosscheck and check to the league are proof of Laughton's work.

 

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