When the Philadelphia Flyers stepped up to the podium during the first round of the 2017 draft and selected forward Morgan Frost 27th overall with they pick the just acquired when they traded Brayden Schenn to St. Louis, they had hopes of snagging an elite offensive performer under-the-radar as he was projected to be a mid-second round pick. While his junior numbers were incredibly impressive, just shy of a two-point-per-game pace during both seasons after he was drafted, that success hasn’t followed him to the professional level yet.
Frost failed to make the Flyers roster out of camp in 2019, instead finding himself on the Phantoms for most of the season. He did manage to get his feet wet in the NHL, suiting up for 20 games from November to December 2019. With a bulk of his ice time coming in the AHL, he was tasked with developing him game and adapting to professional hockey. By season’s end, he did have a decent stat line, posting 13 goals and 29 points in 41 games on an anemic Phantoms’ offense.
He was in the running for a roster spot in 2021, but was beat out by the returning Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. When he was given an opportunity a few weeks into the season, he only suited up for four periods before a shoulder injury ended his 2021 campaign prematurely.
He returned to the Flyers’ lineup in 2021-22, and, even though he played in 55 games in the NHL, he spent most of that time just keeping his head above water, focusing way too much on not making mistakes instead of actually playing hockey. He spent 24 games in the AHL, racking up 19 points during that stretch, finally showing some of his offensive brilliance at the professional level, but his two-way play still leaves much to be desired.
He signed a one-year extension that will keep him on the main roster in Philly next season, but he’s still on the outside looking in, and the Flyers roster in limbo heading into a critical season, one has to wonder where Frost fits in?
Morgan Frost is a playmaker, plain and simple. He’s got some silky smooth hands and is capable of dazzling offensive displays. It’s one of the overall few strengths he’s shown during his professional tenure. The limited success he had in the NHL, including his first goal, came while riding shotgun with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. And there were few nights where he’d make it through a game in Lehigh Valley without adding some incredible play to his highlight reel.
When he’s removed from that role the weaknesses in his game are left exposed. He’s listed at 5’11 and 170lbs which is fairly small, even in today’s NHL. Overcoming his size was a big issue, no pun intended, that he had with the Phantoms. When you’re that size, It’s an adapt or perish situation in the big leagues.
But it’s not about his size, it’s about what he does with it. Some people get too hung up on his frame, but it’s not his body itself, it’s the role he plays on the team. Smaller guys can succeed in depth roles. Just look at Nicolas Aube-Kubel, he’s listed at 5’11 196lbs. He is not a big dude, but he plays a big, physical game and can handle himself deeper down the depth chart, Frost just isn’t that type of player. He’s a much more offensively-driven elusive speedster, he’s not necessarily built to take on the biggest players in the league.
When it comes to Frost’s spot in the lineup, that’s when his strengths and weaknesses get put to the test. The problem is, as an undersized playmaker, he’s best served in the top six where he can feed the best players on the Flyers and avoid battling fourth line grinders, but therein lies the issue; Those spots are at a premium right now and there isn’t much room for an unproven risk like Frost.
His bad nights last season were disregarded by the fans if he wasn’t playing alongside Claude Giroux. Even in the few games he was lined up on the top line, he still wasn’t that impressive. Now in 2022-23, he get to play on a team without Claude Giroux, or any real offensively dominant players for that matter, as well as working under new head coach John Tortorella, someone who probably isn’t going to take kindly to Frost’s two-way struggles.
Unlike last season where the Flyers brought in insurance players Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson, they didn’t add any center depth to the roster this summer. That means Frost is probably earmarked to start the season at 3C, with his main competition coming from Scott Laughton, who may be deployed at left wing to start the season, and Tanner Laczynski, who will probably center the fourth line to start the year.
He did show some minor glimpse of potential toward the end of last season when he was lined up with newcomers Noah Cates and Owen Tippett, which is the first palpable sign of a building blocks he has laid in his career. The trio could very well be the third line on opening night and if they could pick up where they left off, Frost’s play making with Tippett’s nose for the net and Cates’ strong overall presence could make for a decent trio if the stars align.
Frost’s one-year extension with the club feels like a prove-it deal. He’s still technically a restricted free agent next summer as well, but if he doesn’t start producing like an NHL caliber forward, he may have his rights traded away, or potentially not qualified at all next summer.
The lack on competition from within the roster should give him room to grow, but it’s a double edged sword. If there’s no talent to help carry Frost, he’s basically climbing this up hill battle on his own. Whatever the outcome is this season, it will tell a lot about his future in the NHL, and whether or not he’ll ever be a viable option for the Flyers.
Can he overcome the odds and establish himself as an everyday NHLer? Time will tell.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: courierpost.com