Flyers

Why Flyers' prospect Morgan Frost is not ready for NHL

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Why Flyers' prospect Morgan Frost is not ready for NHL

NEW YORK — It certainly looked and sounded good in theory.

Take a first-round pick who exploded for 112 points at the junior level in the season after he was drafted and pencil him in as the Flyers' third-line center.

After all, defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny made the transition straight from major junior to the NHL, so why couldn’t Frost?

The odds were extremely slim from the moment Frost stepped on the ice eight days ago at rookie camp. He didn’t have the best World Junior Summer Showcase tournament, that also featured 2018 Flyers first-rounders Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien, who arguably outplayed Frost during the eight-day event. 

Frost, along with Isaac Ratcliffe, the Flyers' second-round pick in 2017, was returned to his junior club Tuesday.

Still, watching Frost during 1-on-1 or 3-on-2 drills during camp, you could see the skill set that made Flyers scouts salivate to the point in which he was a unanimous selection when the organization traded Brayden Schenn to select him 27th overall in the 2017 NHL draft.

Frost’s stick-handling skills are off the charts for a prospect his age. His vision and hockey sense are traits that can’t be coached and he has another gear in his skating that many young players can’t get to. 

However, even when he proved to be a vital component on the power play during the prospects game on Long Island, you knew Frost wasn’t quite ready.

He may have finished the rookie game with a goal and two assists — plus a breakaway attempt in which he came close to scoring another goal — but take the puck off his stick and you could see where Frost’s game needs improvement.

“The part of the game without the puck, learning how to check it and working to get it back, that’s an area we’re going to ask him to improve,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.

There were shifts when Frost was in the right position defensively, and then there were moments when he spent a good deal of time chasing the play.

Then came the preseason opener at Nassau Coliseum Sunday when Frost, and the entire team for that matter, was unnoticeable. General manager Ron Hextall labeled it “an eye-opener” and said Frost may have been one of those “intimidated” by the next level of competition. 

Every teenager progresses differently. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter came to the Flyers after four years in junior and AHL playoff competition with the Phantoms. Captain Claude Giroux spent half a season with the Phantoms before he became an NHL regular a month shy of his 21st birthday. 

The 19-year-old Frost will return to Sault Ste. Marie for his fourth and final season of junior hockey. Expectations are high and that shouldn’t change for a player of his abilities.

As for this season, no need to pick the grape off the vine prematurely when it’s obvious it still needs to ripen.

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Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers have some exciting young defensemen at the pro level. They also have some at the college and junior ranks.

Two that have received a lot of attention are Cam York and Egor Zamula. York was the Flyers' first-round pick this summer and is in his freshman year at Michigan, while Zamula is a near-point-per-game 19-year-old playing for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

Another defenseman to keep tabs on his Wyatt Kalynuk, who the Flyers selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. The junior at Wisconsin had a goal, eight shots and seven blocked shots over two games against Notre Dame last weekend.

The 16th-ranked Badgers sport exciting underclassmen with Cole Caufield (2019 top-15 pick), Alex Turcotte (2019 top-five pick) and K'Andre Miller (2018 top-25 pick).

“The goal is to win a national championship," Kalynuk said this summer at Flyers development camp.

Kalynuk is a huge piece for Wisconsin. The 22-year-old has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) through 12 games.

"Probably my biggest strength is skating," Kalynuk said. "At Wisconsin, getting bigger, stronger and faster just improves it even more.

“I would consider myself a late bloomer, but it’s not a knock on me or anybody."

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher checked out the Badgers last season in February. Wisconsin was playing Flyers prospect Tanner Laczynski and Ohio State. With Kalynuk, Laczynski, York and Bryce Brodzinski (2019 seventh-round pick at Minnesota), the Flyers will be watching plenty of Big Ten hockey this season.

Quick hits

• Goalie Kirill Ustimenko, a 2017 third-round pick, had a 32-save shutout for the ECHL's Reading Royals in a 1-0 win last Saturday over the Wheeling Nailers. The 20-year-old has a 2.57 goals-against average in 10 games (six wins).

• Isaac Ratcliffe has missed the Phantoms' last three games with an injury. The 2017 second-round pick is transitioning to the pro level with three points (one goal, two assists) in 12 games.

• Noah Cates scored his team-leading fifth goal in Minnesota Duluth's 3-2 win Saturday over Miami (Ohio). The 2017 fifth-round pick is a sophomore on the country's ninth-ranked team.

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said this summer.

• Jay O'Brien, a 2018 first-round pick, is second in the BCHL with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) through 26 games for the Penticton Vees.

• Wyatte Wylie, another defenseman to watch, is a point-per-game player right now with five goals and 14 assists in 19 contests for the WHL's Everett Silvertips.

 

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Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

Morgan Frost call-up has to do with everyone (especially James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Jakub Voracek)

VOORHEES, N.J. — Could Morgan Frost have used more time in the AHL?

Possibly.

But 20 games into the 2019-20 season, the Flyers were in a spot where they needed the 20-year-old’s ability. Uniquely, Frost impacts all four of the Flyers’ lines.

The Flyers are searching for greater balance and consistency within their forwards. They haven’t had it through 20 games and it’s a reason why they’ve been up and down during a 10-6-4 start.

Frost’s advertised prowess for playmaking permeates the big club’s makeup. Monday’s arrival of the 2017 first-round pick allows head coach Alain Vigneault to do many desired things with the Flyers’ lineup.

It moves Claude Giroux from the middle back to left winger, where he’s had his career-best success, without seriously hampering the Flyers at center. Frost will play between Giroux and Travis Konecny, a spot that accentuates the prospect’s strengths.

“T.K. is not a 10-year veteran, but he’s one of our young players that is definitely on the uprise and playing real well,” Vigneault said. “We’re playing Morgan with our captain. The captain will lead the way and help the young man out.”

It pieces back together the Flyers’ fourth line of Andy Andreoff, Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick, which was strong and gives the Flyers the necessary depth to augment Vigneault’s system.

“We felt that by bringing Morgan in and being able to go back to Raffy’s line, which had success with Andy on the left side and Tyler on the right side, it gave us better balance,” Vigneault said.

It keeps Sean Couturier with Oskar Lindblom, a duo that has highly performed, while adding Joel Farabee to the group. The trio showed promise in the 4-3 shootout loss Saturday night and it’s important the 19-year-old Farabee is around talent.

“Whoever we’ve played with Coots has played well,” Vigneault said.

And, most notably, it creates a line of James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Jakub Voracek, three players that haven’t produced the way everyone expects them to produce. JVR, Hayes and Voracek have combined for 29 points in 20 games. They are three of the Flyers’ four highest-paid players, all with an average annual value of $7 million or above. 

Vigneault knows those players must perform overall and especially at 5-on-5 for his team to take a legitimate step forward.

The Hayesy line, Jake and James, that should be a big, good NHL line, they should be able to contribute 5-on-5 and play well both offensively and defensively.

All those guys, I love the person. I love Kevin Hayes as a person, James and Jake I’m starting to know, they’re great people. I need more from the hockey player. Two different distinctions, right? The person and the hockey player. Those three guys, I need more from the hockey player. I know that they want to do well. We’re 20 games in. It’s time. I’m not telling you anything that I haven’t told them. Obviously they feel pressure, but that’s why they’re paid the big bucks. You’ve got to deliver, you’ve got to produce, and we expect those guys to produce.

Older guys, because of their reputation, because of what they’ve done in the league, they have more leash, they have more money in the bank. Some of our guys, they’ve used a few withdrawals. I’m not stating anything that [anybody doesn’t know], but I expect more from James, I expect more from Kevin, I expect more from Jake as far as 5-on-5 play. You’d ask those guys, they’d tell you the same thing. They need to be better for our team to get into the playoffs and we’re aware of that.

Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher speak daily with AHL affiliate head coach Scott Gordon. On Sunday, Vigneault spoke with Fletcher for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. After hearing from Gordon, they felt the time was right for Frost.

“Putting our two minds together, we came up with this,” Vigneault said. “It wasn’t about coming up with a plan, it was just looking at our overall team — our four lines, our defense.”

As much as it was about Frost and the Flyers, it had a ton to do with van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek. Frost is here and will make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Panthers in Florida. While many eyes will be on Frost, Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Voracek.

He’s a head coach with a track record of making the playoffs — and he sure doesn’t want to miss them in Year 1 with the Flyers.

 

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