Isaac Ratcliffe

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_morgan_frost_isaac_ratcliffe.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe fans wanted more than just a one-game tryout.

See what the kids can do.

That is certainly an understandable response after Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe were returned to their junior clubs Tuesday. Excluding the prospects game, Frost and Ratcliffe played in a single preseason game apiece with eight on the schedule.

Both headed back to the OHL, their teams open the 2018-19 season this week with Frost's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds playing Wednesday and Ratcliffe's Guelph Storm Thursday.

For the most part, the 19-year-olds were long shots for the Flyers' roster. Frost had an outside look at the team's third-line center job (see story), while Ratcliffe, albeit rising among the prospect pool, was all but destined for his fourth junior campaign.

No problem.

But if fans are upset with the Flyers' semi-quick trigger, there's something important to remember. The Flyers could easily have neither of these two kids in their system. If it weren't for a pair of tough decisions — one particularly bold — made by general manager Ron Hextall, such a scenario would be the case.

If you recall, Hextall had to trade Brayden Schenn in order to grab the No. 27 overall pick of the 2017 draft, where the Flyers selected Frost. Parting ways with Schenn was no effortless call. The forward was 25 years old at the time, finished second on the 2016-17 team in goals with 25, 17 of which came on the power play, tying him for most in the NHL alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov.

Here we are, though, about a year and three months later, and Frost has created a debate over his chances at making the Flyers as a 19-year-old. He's considered a top-50 prospect in the NHL and is looking to build off a 112-point season in which he was a staggering plus-70. 

While Schenn had a career year with the Blues (28 goals, 42 assists), he cooled off considerably, scoring 12 markers in the final 51 games following 16 in his first 31 as St. Louis missed the playoffs. Not only does Frost's future look bright, but the Flyers also acquired a conditional first-round pick in the deal, drafting winger Joel Farabee at No. 14 overall this summer.

The Flyers snagged Ratcliffe in the same draft as Frost, just a day later in the second round. Landing the 6-foot-6 winger didn't come easy, either. To slide up to No. 35 overall, the Flyers had to send their second-round pick (44), a third (75) and a fourth (108) to the Coyotes. Similar to Frost, that's how badly they wanted Ratcliffe.

He has the Flyers feeling good about it. 

Ratcliffe scored 41 goals and 68 points over 67 regular-season games in 2017-18. He has developed a ton in one year, now possessing intriguing ability for a player his size (see story).

In this draft, the Flyers could have been conservative and satisfied after hitting the jackpot on No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick.

They weren't.

These were calculated risks the Flyers took in adding Frost and Ratcliffe. Hextall and his staff trusted the diligence behind their scouting efforts.

So far, so good on hitting with them.

It should make up for a disappointing day, for those that deem it one.

More on the Flyers

Why Flyers' prospect Morgan Frost is not ready for NHL

zack_hill_morgan_frost_flyers.jpg
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.

More on the Flyers

End to End: Flyers prospects with most to prove in 2018-19

End to End: Flyers prospects with most to prove in 2018-19

This week, Sporting News ranked the farm systems of all 31 NHL teams.

The Flyers, impressively, came in at No. 2, as general manager Ron Hextall has tirelessly restocked the franchise's prospect pool.

In light of the rankings, we'll take a look at some of the Flyers' prospects the next few days.

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: The three prospects with most to prove in 2018-19.

Boruk

1. Nicolas Aube-Kubel 
Phantoms veteran forward Chris Conner was raving to me about how talented Aube-Kubel is and his ability to make plays. Depending on the night, those skills are clearly on display. He possesses a goal scorer’s mentality, strong skating and physically he has matured in two seasons in Lehigh Valley. However, Aube-Kubel struggles with consistency and in the AHL playoffs he was hardly noticeable, failing to register a single point in 10 games. It’s time for the Flyers' 2014 second-round selection to dial up his game this season while giving the coaches a long, hard look during training camp.

2. Tyrell Goulbourne 
Goulbourne still qualifies as a prospect after that nine-game audition in January last season. If you include his brief stint with the Reading Royals in the ECHL, Goulbourne has over 200 games of minor-league experience, so the time to take the next step is now. Goulbourne is one of those spark plug-type players that can infuse some energy when he’s on the ice. We saw that when he took his first shift in his first game against the St. Louis Blues as he leveled defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, which led to the game’s first goal. The Flyers need more of that this season from the 24-year-old forward, who plays a physical yet responsible game. 

3. Carter Hart
Hart made it clear when we talked in the PPL Center press box during the AHL playoffs that his goal is to make the Flyers this season — as a 20-year-old rookie. Lofty expectations for the top goaltender selected in the 2016 draft, but he’s set the bar high as he approaches his first year of professional hockey and has cited Carey Price as a career path he’d like to follow. So entering his first training camp with the Flyers, Hart has something to prove even if he doesn’t make the big club to start the season, and after talking to him recently, I think he’d appreciate being on this list.   

Dougherty

1. Pascal Laberge
There have been some speed bumps along the way in his young hockey career and for that, he deserves a pass. But it's safe to say this is an extremely important season for Laberge. He started to put together some consistency last season when he was traded to Quebec. Now he'll be with the Phantoms full-time. He has a chip on his shoulder and he needs to use it.

2. Philippe Myers
For Myers, it's not so much on the ice; it's more about whether he can stay on it. Myers is a top-level prospect with a bright future … as long as he can stay healthy. For me, that's the only thing preventing Myers from receiving serious NHL consideration now.

3. German Rubtsov
It seems as if many outside the Flyers' organization have soured on the former first-round pick, but Hextall appears high on Rubtsov. Rubtsov needs to show more aggressiveness in the offensive zone as he heads to the AHL. He's a smart player but a little too conservative offensively. He needs to prove he has another level in the O-zone.

Hall

1. Felix Sandstrom
The Flyers are loaded with goalie prospects and Sandstrom is coming off a difficult 2017-18 season plagued by an illness. Hextall and the Flyers are still high on the 2015 third-round pick, but this SHL season will be important for the Swede to show his ability again.

2. Mike Vecchione
Vecchione is a hard-working, well-polished forward who had a productive first season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, scoring 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in 65 regular-season games. Some seem to overlook Vecchione when it comes to the Flyers' third-line center job. He'll have a chance to change that.

3. Isaac Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 winger with skill and touch, unique for a player his size. He scored 41 goals for the OHL's Guelph Storm in 2017-18. The 19-year-old's name is gaining buzz and Ratcliffe is eager to prove his strength can hold up against NHLers. He's set for another junior season but could be a quick riser to the Flyers.

More on the Flyers