Welcome to Philadelphia Flyers News & Rumors, where we discuss the latest training camp roster cut of center Morgan Frost. The decision to send the young center to the Flyers American Hockey League (AHL), the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, presents more questions than answers to the Flyers’ center depth, with Kevin Hayes still recuperating from abdominal surgery. After Hayes underwent abdominal surgery in September, it was anticipated Frost would make the Flyers opening night roster as the second or third-line center. However, with the young center no longer on the Flyers’ roster, speculation abounds as to what player(s) head coach Alain Vigneault will place at the center position, particularly on the second line.
Frost Cut From Flyers, Sent to Phantoms
The 22-year-old center was sent to the Phantoms on Wednesday, Oct. 6, in an unexpected move given the Flyers’ lack of depth at center. However, it is understandable why they sent him to the Phantoms based on his lack of production during the preseason. In three preseason games, Frost had zero points and two shots on goal (SOG). He needs to work on his offensive game with the Phantoms in order to consider getting called up to the Flyers again this season.
According to Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic, it was not a surprise for Frost to struggle among the individuals in the organization.
“My understanding in the weeks leading up to camp was that the organization as a whole was operating under the assumption Frost would need AHL time to start the 2021-22 season to play himself back into peak form. It made sense – after all, since March 12, 2020, Frost has appeared in just four periods of meaningful professional hockey and spent most of 2021 rehabbing from shoulder surgery. The front office expected that Frost wasn’t going to look his best in preseason, though they were certainly leaving the door open for him to make the big club if he did. But in their minds, he was on the outside looking in. Then, Hayes’ surprise abdominal surgery threw everything for a loop” (from “Why Flyers demoted Morgan Frost and where the roster stands after training camp cuts – by Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic, 10/6/21).
Jordan Hall, who covers the Flyers for NBC Sports Philadelphia, added the following quotes from Vigneault in an article concerning Frost’s demotion.
“Morgan is considered a skilled offensive player with top-six potential,” Vigneault said five days ago. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t played a lot of hockey, he missed all of last year. Like I mentioned prior to camp, we don’t know right now where these young players are with their progression. They’re going to get an opportunity in exhibition [games] to show what they can do, and then we’re going to make the decision. Maybe he is ready to step in right at the beginning, maybe it’s not in a major role, or maybe it’s in the minors; I don’t know. These next few days, next few games are going to be important for him and important for quite a few other players also” (from “In a surprise, Flyers send top center prospect to Phantoms – by Jordan Hall, NBC Sports Philadelphia, 10/6/21).
Frost will continue to work on his game with the Phantoms with the goal of getting called up to the Flyers roster at some point during the season.
Who Will Be the Flyers’ Second Line Center?
Both Hall and O’Connor mention that center Jackson Cates is a young player who is still with the Flyers’ roster at this point. He could remain with the orange and black when opening night arrives, and could be their second-line center. O’Connor included the following about the promise the young center has shown thus far.
“Cates is a 24-year-old center who appeared in four games with the Flyers last season after their playoff chances dwindled to nothing, posting one assist in the process. His underlying numbers showed promise – a 42.94 percent Corsi for percentage isn’t good, but a 58.50 percent on-ice expected goals share certainly would play at the NHL – but a four-game sample is far too small for meaningful observations to be made about his quality as an NHL player. At the very least, Cates didn’t look completely out of place” (from “Why Flyers demoted Morgan Frost and where the roster stands after training camp cuts – by Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic, 10/6/21). However, O’Connor writes that Frost has more upside than Cates, and the latter would be a decent fourth-line center at the NHL level.
The other options the Flyers have to center the second line are Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton or Derick Brassard. Giroux has played more left wing in recent seasons but has years of prior experience at center and is the most likely of the trio to see the most minutes on the top six for the Flyers. As projected previously, Laughton has played the wing on the bottom six, while Brassard has centered the third line playing alongside wingers Oskar Lindblom and Cam Atkinson.
It appears like it could be a committee approach between Giroux, Laughton and Brassard as to who centers the second line. Giroux has the most offensive skill of the options that could be considered for the position, even though Vigneault may prefer to keep him at left wing. If the head coach does not consider the long-time Flyers veteran for the center position, Laughton and Brassard could alternate, especially if Cates opens the season on the roster as a center for the bottom six. The Flyers’ head coach has his share of options to mix and match in order to find out what line combinations work until Hayes returns.