Morgan Frost

Future Flyers Report: Morgan Frost picks up where he left off

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Morgan Frost picks up where he left off

Welcome back to the return of the Future Flyers Report, a weekly column tracking the development of Ron Hextall’s master experiment. With the Flyers’ season opener in Las Vegas 10 days away, expectations for the NHL club are higher.

But there remains a heavy pot of prospects worth following. Carter Hart turns pro. Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien begin their collegiate careers at rival schools in Hockey East.

The CHL opened its regular season last week, and international leagues are also underway. It’s September, and that means hockey is back. As another NHL season filled with surprises, disappointments and Dave Hakstol lineup decisions creeps up on us, let’s dig a bit into the future.

• Let’s begin with Morgan Frost, who was returned to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last Tuesday, one day before the OHL season opened, after just one preseason game with the Flyers.

Frost didn’t waste much time cracking the scoresheet in 2018-19, registering a primary assist in the Greyhounds’ opener last Wednesday against Saginaw in a 5-2 loss.

After Friday’s game was postponed, Frost jumped right back into the fray with his first multi-point game of the season in Sault Ste. Marie’s 6-0 win over the North Bay on Saturday.

He also added a secondary assist on the Greyhounds’ final goal of the season. It’s an encouraging two-game start for Frost, who has won over 61 percent of his faceoffs as well.

While Frost didn’t make the Flyers, it wasn’t for a lack of opportunity. He had that in the rookie game and the preseason tilt he played in, but he didn’t move the needle enough to stick around.

Still, Frost figures to have another monster season in the OHL. It will be his last. He turns pro in 2019-20 and he’ll have much higher odds of being an NHL player next season.

• While most eyes will be on Hart in Lehigh Valley, Felix Sandstrom remains a goalie to watch overseas. He has a lot to prove this season after a difficult 2017-18 campaign (see story).

Sandstrom, now with HV71, has three games under his belt thus far. He allowed two goals on 34 shots in his first game on Sept. 15 in a 3-1 loss to Färjestad. He struggled Thursday, allowing five goals on 28 shots against Linkoping but rebounded with a 23-save, two-goal effort Saturday.

If all goes according to plan, Sandstrom will come to North America next season.

Quick Hits
• Matthew Strome picked up his first points of the season Saturday with a two-assist game in Hamilton’s 4-2 win over Barrie.

• Marcus Westfalt, the Flyers’ seventh-round pick from June’s draft, has a goal and three assists in five games for Brynäs IF in the J20 SuperElit.

Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph, OHL) has an assist in two games, Wyatte Wylie (Everett, WHL) has an assist in one game, Maksim Sushko (Owen Sound, OHL) has an assist in two games.

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Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

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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.

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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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