After taking a hit from Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Jared McCann, 1:38 into Friday’s 5-2 win over the Penguins, Sean Couturier left the game and did not return. It was announced by the team Saturday afternoon that Couturier will be out a minimum of two weeks with a costochondral separation.
The injury occurs when one of the ribs comes apart from the sternum, and must have been a painful one as he left almost immediately and did not return. As a player that suffered two MCL tears each of the last two seasons, Couturier is no stranger to playing through the pain, especially during the playoffs. A tough blow for the Philadelphia Flyers to start the season, the team remains optimistic with the depth of their roster.
Losing Couturier, one of the most valuable players on the Flyers roster, for an extended period of time could prove to be difficult. But with the injury only requiring two weeks of rest early in the season, the Flyers are still in a good position to be successful. Couturier won the Selke Trophy after posting 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists) in the shortened season.
“Coots is a player that can’t be replaced,” said Kevin Hayes in an interview. “He’s one of the best players in the league; he won that (Selke Trophy) award for a reason obviously. But it’s just a next-guy-up mentality, injuries happen to every team. The depth in this locker room is really high, and I don’t think anyone’s panicking.” (From ‘Ten Flyers observations: Sean Couturier’s injury impact, early team trends,’ The Athletic, 01/18/2021)
Flyers Turn to Frost
With Couturier being out for a minimum of two weeks, the Flyers need some of the depth in their locker room to step up. That next-guy-up is going to be Morgan Frost, who spent some time with the Flyers last season. Head coach Alain Vigneault had plenty of viable options to replace Couturier for the two-week period but elected to choose Frost based on the skill he showcased during training camp. Vigneault believes Frost fits best with the current lineup and will provide a boost in offensive skill.
“There’s no doubt that it’s very hard to replace a player like Sean, who plays 5 on 5 against top opponents and he plays power play, plays penalty killing, but it’s next man up and right now it’s Morgan.” coach Vigneault said. “Instead of shuffling everything, Morgan is considered to be a skilled offensive player … well, I might as well put him in that role, and that role with TK and Oskar.”
Frost Eager for Opportunity
After serving a 20 game stint with the Flyers in 2019-20, Frost was sent to the Leigh Valley Phantoms midway through the season following only seven points. He showed flashes of brilliance at the NHL level last season, but ultimately needed more time to develop. He used the offseason to get stronger, faster, and smarter with the puck. While Frost might not be able to fully fill the void during Couturier’s absence, he is looking to make a bigger impact with the club.
“I understand the game a lot better from a 200-foot perspective (this season),” Frost said. “It was definitely a leap coming from juniors, but you understand you don’t have as much time with the puck, and you’ve got to make smarter plays with the puck. Sometimes it’s area plays — it’s not always gonna be getting around guys and making tape-to-tape passes. I think (I’ve improved) just a little bit of everything.”
As it was reported this past weekend, Frost will be inserted into the lineup between Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, and could potentially see time on the first power-play unit. The trio, which provides plenty of skill and speed, could prove to be dangerous for the opponents of the powerful East Division. Frost is looking forward to the opportunity to play with T.K. and Oskar and will do anything to provide support.
“They’re both tremendous players, they both can create plays and they’re both elite goal scorers,” Frost said. “I’ll try to put the puck on their stick as much as I can in good areas. Just try to feed off them, they’ve established themselves in this league. They’re really good players and I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m going to do whatever I can to make plays for them and hopefully be in a position for them to make plays for me.”
Upon being given the opportunity to step into the lineup, Frost immediately understood the impact of replacing Couturier. While no one will be able to replace arguably one of the most important Flyers, Frost has learned a thing or two from the Selke winner.
“Coots is one of the best players in the league, so pretty big shoes to fill. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win and try to fill some of his shoes, said Frost. “On the defensive side of the puck, you really have to work hard and make sure you’re in a good position with your stick and body,” he continued.
Frost and the Flyers will look to continue winning games with the absence of Couturier lasting at least eight games over the next two weeks. In a season where every game counts, the Flyers might be in a truly tough spot if Couturier is out longer than expected.
Bobby Bader is a freelance journalist from Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL) as the team’s media coordinator as the team prepares for its inaugural season. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.