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.