Flyers

Could Morgan Frost follow Travis Konecny's path to Flyers?

Could Morgan Frost follow Travis Konecny's path to Flyers?

When free agency opened, the Flyers’ most glaring immediate organizational need was an upgrade at third-line center, so when they struck loudly with left wing James van Riemsdyk and departed the market without signing a center, the hole remained unfilled.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall drew a line in the sand and proved he would not cross it. Hextall admitted the Flyers were in on a center, but the term went past his boundary. He also said they identified four or five forwards who were at their line. van Riemsdyk was one of them.

Hextall did not want to make a lateral move at 3C or block prospects. He felt the Flyers could fill it from within. He specifically mentioned Scott Laughton and Jordan Weal as options and opened the door for Claude Giroux to return to center after posting a career year as a left winger in 2017-18.

When asked about two prospects, Morgan Frost and Mikhail Vorobyev, Hextall turned to the safety net of “we’ll see.” Hextall has stuck to his guns with his prospects. They have to earn their spots, and while Hextall has been ultra conservative with the prospects, he has placed three 19-year-olds on the opening night roster in the past two seasons.

While Hextall refused to put Frost or Vorobyev on the roster without them earning it, by saying he’s comfortable with his internal options, it suggests that the Flyers are banking on either Frost or Vorobyev to push hard in training camp.

With the Flyers opting against signing a third-line center, at least for now, Frost’s odds of making the opening night roster in 2018-19 have significantly increased if only because there is now a clear path for the 2017 first-round draft pick.

“I think my opinion is different than other people,” Frost said last Thursday at development camp in Voorhees, New Jersey. “I want to make the team. If I work my hardest, it’s realistic.”

That was before free agency opened and before Hextall conceded that the market dictated the Flyers’ best course of action for a third-line center comes internally. It’s certainly realistic now. 

Once Hextall sifted through the “we’ll see” on Frost, the Flyers’ GM put the ball in the 19-year-old’s court. Hextall said Frost has to get “a lot stronger” and has “work to do,” which Frost knows. Frost came into development camp considerably stronger than he was last season at 184 pounds, a 12-pound increase from where he was at this point last summer. Frost finished the 2017-18 season at 175 pounds and said he hopes to play above 180 pounds in 2018-19.

“He’s certainly stronger than he was a year ago,” Hextall said. “He’s got a couple months here. He’s certainly got some work to do.”

Strength is the one area holding Frost back as his overall skill set very well may be NHL ready. Frost has two months to gain more muscle before training camp opens in September, which considering he’s already up nine pounds from his end-of-season weight, is possible.

Take Travis Konecny, for example. Konecny showed up to the Flyers’ July development camp in 2016 listed at 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds. By training camp, Konecny added about nine pounds to reach 185 and made the team as a 19-year-old. It could be a similar course for Frost.

It’s about adding the right weight, which Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson said is part of the team’s teaching methods. Frost appears to have added the right weight as his frame was noticeably more mature than it was last summer, but the Flyers will not know for certain until the competition escalates come September.

“Everyone can see that, everyone knows that,” Frost said. “I need to get a lot stronger and I think that comes with eating and working out. I think it’s just trying to eat as often as you can, even if it’s little, small meals instead of having your breakfast, lunch, dinner.”

By now, everyone knows about Frost’s draft-plus-1 season. He finished second in the OHL behind Barrie’s Aaron Luchuk with 112 points in 67 games, posting 42 goals and 70 assists for an absurd 1.69 points-per-game clip. He led the league in plus/minus with a plus-70 rating. He won 52.2 percent of his faceoffs, taking 466 more draws than he did in 2016-17.

Advanced metrics in junior hockey are hard to find and come from independent sources such as The Athletic’s Mitch Brown. Brown tracked 17 of the top teams in junior hockey across the CHL and USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USHL games only), and while it’s a small sample size, it’s advanced data that we can use.

Frost was among the players tracked, though the data includes just eight Sault Ste. Marie games, so for Frost, it’s an extremely small sample. Still, he posted a 65 percent Corsi relative and both his controlled entry percentage (92) and controlled exit percentage (96) were strong.

“He learned a little bit to play a 200-foot game,” Samuelsson said. “Most of the players who score points like that, when they come into the professional world, that’s the thing they really have to work on — playing without the puck.”

The Greyhounds finished atop the OHL and it wasn’t even close. Sault Ste. Marie finished the regular season with 116 points, a campaign that included a 23-game winning streak. Frost was a major factor in the Soo’s success and compiled 43 points over a 20-game point streak himself.

One Flyers prospect who knows Frost from playing against him in the OHL is Isaac Ratcliffe, who’s a member of the Guelph Storm.

“He just knows the game so well,” Ratcliffe said. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with and played against. … The passes he makes — he won’t have to see a guy across the ice, he’ll just know he’s there. The puck always seems to find his stick no matter where he is on the ice. I know he’s going to be a top player in the NHL one day.”

One day could be as soon as this October. By the looks of it, it’ll all be up to Frost.

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

Oskar Lindblom, a 23-year-old forward on the Flyers, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones.

Below is a statement from Flyers president of hockey operations and general manager Chuck Fletcher:

Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom has been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma by leading specialists at the University of Pennsylvania. He will undergo further testing and evaluation next week and begin treatment immediately thereafter. He is not expected to return to play for the remainder of the season. The Flyers will do everything possible to support Oskar and assist him in securing the best care available. Out of respect for Oskar and his family, the team will have no further comment at this time and asks that Oskar be afforded a period of privacy so that he may focus his efforts on his treatment and a return to full health.

Lindblom, a native of Sweden, had been one of the Flyers’ top players through 30 games, scoring 11 goals and 18 points.

He was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and has blossomed into a promising player.

Always smiling, positive and humble, Lindblom is beloved by his teammates. His rise from a fifth-round pick to a difference-making player has been a product of hard work.

After scoring 17 goals last season, sixth most among NHL rookies, Lindblom went back to Gävle, Sweden, to train all summer with his old team Brynäs IF.

"It’s like five minutes from my house," Lindblom said during training camp.

“It was nice to be back home for a bit, just relaxed, had some time with friends and family, so it was great.”

It didn't take long for the Flyers' new coaching staff to fall in love with Lindblom's game as the winger raced out of the chute, scoring in the team's season opener and playing a major role ever since.

“I didn’t know much about Oskar before coming here, but what I’ve found is a real smart, two-way player, hard-working young man," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Oct. 26.

In the summer of 2017, Lindblom talked about his climb within the Flyers' system.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said.

By the age of 23, he has more than made it on the highest level.

Below is the outpouring of support for Lindblom, via social media:

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

BOX SCORE

From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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