Morgan Frost possesses the talent and hockey-IQ to play in the National Hockey League.
Right now. However, it doesn’t mean he belongs there – at least not yet.
By all means, the Philadelphia Flyers’ young forward has shown eye-popping potential, and the team envisions him as a future top-line center. The numbers he posted in the Ontario Hockey League were off the charts, he excelled at the World Junior Tournament, and he hardly embarrassed himself with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or his abbreviated stint with the Flyers.
Yet, Frost still needs to tighten up his game before he transitions from an American Hockey League call-up to a permanent NHL player. The 2017 first-round draft pick’s career would be better off by starting the 2020-21 season, and spending at least half of it, in the minors rather than in Philly.
Instead of the move stunting his growth, it will accelerate his development. The key is to take every step to ensure Frost remains in the NHL for good once he arrives.
Frost Will Receive More Playing Time in the AHL
There is a strong possibility Frost will make the Flyers out of training camp. He nearly earned a roster spot last season and enters the upcoming campaign high on the depth chart.
In fact, he could replace Nolan Patrick as the fourth-line center if Patrick hasn’t fully recovered from his headache condition. Frost is capable of handling the role, but he will only get eight-to-11 minutes a night on the fourth line.
Any ice time in the NHL is a valuable experience for a young player, but the question is, “would Frost benefit more from playing twice as much on the top line with the Phantoms?” The answer is yes.
As stated above, the Aurora, Ontario native showed last season that he needs to improve in a handful of areas. In 20 games with the Flyers, he held on to the puck too long, was indecisive on shooting the puck, struggled to adjust to the NHL pace, and needs to add some size to compete better along the boards.
The best place to work on these deficiencies is in the minors, where he will get plenty of ice time and won’t have the pressure that comes with playing in the NHL.
If Frost opens the season with the Phantoms, he will still be surrounded by talented players, too. There were six forwards on the Phantoms who spent time with the Flyers last season, plus Lehigh Valley has a couple of highly-touted offensive prospects, including Isaac Ratcliff.
Why Frost is Considered a Top Prospect
The former 27th overall pick was ranked No. 20 on The Hockey Writers Top 100 Prospects list, and for good reason. In his last two seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Frost compiled back-to-back 100-plus point seasons.
He scored 42 goals and had 70 assists in 67 games in 2017-18, and then returned to tally 37 goals and dish out 72 assists in only 58 games. He was a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy, given to the MVP of the OHL.
In five games at the U-20 World Junior Tournament in 2019, he had eight points for Team Canada.
Although he only played in 41 games last season with the Phantoms, Frost racked up 13 goals and 16 assists and finished second on the team in scoring. He was also named to the AHL All-Star Game.
The 21-year-old made his NHL debut on Nov. 19 and spent five weeks, including 18 games, on the Flyers’ roster. He scored a goal in his first two games and played on the first line with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny, as well as the third line.
He was returned to the Phantoms after Christmas but was recalled by the Flyers again for two games in February. Frost had two goals, five assists and was a minus-3 in 20 games with the big club. His season ended when the AHL canceled the season due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.
How Frost Fits into the Flyers’ Future
There is little doubt the dazzling playmaker has a bright future with the team. Barring injuries or a dominating performance, though, he seems like a longshot to break camp with the team.
The best plan for Frost and the organization is to let him play, mature, and find consistency for a couple of months, at a minimum, with the Phantoms. The Flyers should avoid the temptation to bring him up to cover a short-term injury.
Then, maybe in March or April, the Flyers can consider promoting Frost as long as he is ready and that there is an opportunity for him to get ample playing time. With a strong finish, he would position himself as a regular in 2021-22.
The Flyers may also have a couple of openings at forward next offseason. Michael Raffl is an unrestricted free agent, and the team could lose a player such as Scott Laughton or James van Reimsdyk in the expansion draft.
How the Flyers Must Proceed
The key to Frost’s development is patience. While it’s easy to rush him and hope he learns on the fly in the NHL, the Flyers must use caution and think more about the long game.
Instead of possibly crushing his confidence and sending Frost to the minors in the second half, they can set him and themselves up for success by letting the process play out at its own pace.
The Flyers expect Frost to be an integral piece of their young core, along with Joel Farabee, Konecny, Sean Couturier, Philippe Myers, Carter Hart, and others for many seasons.
He will join that group – just not yet.