Morgan Frost is Fire on Ice

By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

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The “Other” First Round Pick

For Philadelphia Flyers fans, the 2017 NHL Draft was arguably the most anticipated in the franchise’s history. The team parlayed a 6.3 percent chance of picking in the top three into the second overall pick, marking the biggest upward move in the history of the NHL Draft Lottery.

It was only the 3rd time in franchise history that the Flyers had a top two selection, with the others being 1975 when they selected Mel Bridgman first overall, and more recently in 2007 when they lost the lottery (and the Patrick Kane sweepstakes) and had to settle for taking James van Riemsdyk with the second pick.

After months of speculation and debate regarding the top two picks – the Flyers selected Nolan Patrick with the second pick. After impressing in training camp and making the team as an 18-year-old, he’s still trying to adjust to the NHL game, a process that was not helped when he had to miss a chunk of action due to a concussion.

However, this article is not about Nolan Patrick.

It’s about the team’s “other” first round pick – Morgan Frost.

Morgan Frost – What we knew at the Draft

When Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall traded away oft-maligned forward Brayden Schenn during the draft for two first-round picks and Jori Lehtera, many Flyers fans were clamoring for the team to take Eeli Tolvanen, a high-volume shooter who had spent the 2016-17 season tearing up the United States Hockey League (USHL). The NHL Draft coverage even put up a graphic that mistakenly had the Flyers taking him.

However, as he often does, Hextall surprised fans and pundits alike by selecting a relative unknown with the 27th overall pick – Morgan Frost.

If you really concentrated and listened closely, you could almost hear the entire Flyers fanbase let out a collective “WHO?”

Most of the draft analysts had Frost going in the 30’s or 40’s – NHL.com had him 31, TSN’s Bob McKenzie had him 38th, and The Hockey News had him 40th.

Like many fans, upon his drafting, I immediately went to the stat sites and tried to find out as much as I could about him.

A slight center at 5’11”, 180 pounds, Frost had a pretty good 2016-17 draft season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), scoring 20 goals and adding 42 assists in 67 games, good for fourth on the team with 62 points.

In a trend that we’ll delve into deeper later on – Frost was 5th among all OHL draft-eligible players in primary assists per game (A1/GP) with 0.37. For clarification, a primary assist simply refers to the pass that directly led to the goal, not the secondary assist.

Right after the draft I also looked up as much video as I could to try and figure out what kind of player that the Flyers were getting.

I was pretty impressed by these clips:

Quite honestly, the first player I thought of was Sidney Crosby. Obviously Frost is nowhere near as talented as Crosby, but from purely a stylistic standpoint, there are a lot of similarities.

Both Frost and Crosby are 5’11” lefthanded shots who skate with a fairly low center of gravity and are terrific at slicing through opposing players. They both tend to slow the game down when the puck is on their stick – although Crosby is also arguably the best player in the history of the NHL at making plays while at top speed and in traffic.

When I watched Frost in those highlights right after the draft, the way he skated, the way that he stickhandled, and the way that he surveyed the ice reminded me of Crosby.

Hextall was defensive when asked if he thought the selection was a reach.

“There are very few guys where our whole staff likes the guy, and our whole staff liked this guy. He’s an extremely intelligent player and reads the ice well. Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing,” Hextall said.

The testing that Hextall might be referring to is that during the skills portion of the CHL Top Prospects showcase, Frost showed off his speed by winning the 30-meter fastest skater competitions both with and without the puck.

One additional tidbit to know about Frost is that his father, Andy, is a somewhat famous Canadian radio personality who also served as the Toronto Maple Leafs Public Address Announcer for nearly 20 years from 1999-2016.

This Season, Morgan Frost is on a Different Level

Morgan Frost is tearing up the OHL as an 18-year-old.

Entering the two-week holiday break, his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have won 20 straight games and are an astonishing 29-3-2, representing the best record across the three Canadian Junior leagues.

Frost has points in 11 straight games with eight goals and 19 assists over that span – averaging more than two points-per-game.

He was just named OHL Player-of-the-Week.

 

Here are some of Frost’s core stats and where they rank among all OHL players:

  • 19 goals (9th)
  • 36 assists (2nd)
  • 55 points (3rd)
  • Plus-42 (1st – the next best in the OHL is Plus-32)

As impressive as those numbers are, when you start diving deeper into the stats his season becomes that much more jaw-dropping.

So far this season, Frost has racked up 25 primary assists, which is four more than anyone else in his league. Unsurprisingly, he also leads the OHL with an average of 0.76 A1/GP.

While we are looking at these numbers, it is very important to note that the Canadian Junior leagues are made up mostly of 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds. Obviously, the older the player, the more experience they have and they better you would expect them to perform.

Let’s look at how Frost ranks if we only look at 18-year-olds – basically the players who were drafted in the same year and are at the same stage of their development.

Frost is averaging 1.67 points-per-game (P/GP), which is second in the OHL among players that are his same age, behind only Robert Thomas (1.70), who was taken 20th overall by the St. Louis Blues. If you include the QMJHL and the WHL, Frost drops down to fourth in P/GP – trailing only Thomas, Aleksi Heponiemi (2.38 – selected in 2nd round by the Florida Panthers) and Kole Lind (1.68 – selected in the 2nd round by the Vancouver Canucks).

I also thought it would be interesting to compare Frost to all of the other 2017 first-round forwards who were selected out of the Canadian Junior system.

Sorted by Draft Order

#1 – Nico Hischier – New Jersey Devils – Currently in NHL
#2 – Nolan Patrick – Philadelphia Flyers – Currently in NHL
#6 – Cody Glass – Vegas Golden Knights – 1.53 P/GP in WHL
#9 – Michael Rasmussen – Detroit Red Wings – 1.36 P/GP in WHL
#10 – Owen Tippett – Florida Panthers – 1.12 P/GP in OHL
#11 – Gabriel Vilardi – Los Angeles Kings – Injured
#13 – Nick Suzuki – Vegas Golden Knights – 1.57 P/GP in OHL
#20 – Robert Thomas – St. Louis Blues – 1.70 P/GP in OHL
#22 – Kailer Yamamoto – Edmonton Oilers – 0.91 P/GP in OHL
#27 – Morgan Frost – Philadelphia Flyers – 1.67 P/GP in OHL

Morgan Frost is averaging more points-per-game in the Canadian Junior leagues than any other 2017 first-round pick except for Robert Thomas.

Needless to say, that is extremely impressive.

To the Highlights!

OK, so we’ve now established that Frost is having one of the most impressive seasons of any 18-year-old in the OHL, and perhaps across the entire Canadian Juniors.

Now let’s get into some of the highlights and break down what makes him such a special player.

Hextall described Frost as an extremely intelligent player who reads the ice well. Here are a few clips that demonstrate those attributes perfectly.

The below clip is one of the prettiest passes you will ever see. While being pressured from the side, Frost threads the puck through three opponents to perfectly set up a teammate for a slam dunk.

Next we’ll see Frost’s vision and intelligence on full display – after forcing a turnover he provides a perfect drop pass on a partial breakaway. Most players would take a shot here, but Frost obviously played through the possibilities in his mind and made an unorthodox decision that led to a goal.

Here’s another clip that shows off his hockey acumen. After dropping off a pass, he heads to an undefended area of the ice that allows him to get into perfect position to finish off the well executed two-on-two.

At this past summer’s Flyers Development Camp, Frost really showed off his poise and passing ability on this play, which I personally captured on camera. Watch him shrug off fellow top prospect Oskar Lindblom before making a perfect backhand pass that led to a goal.

Here ‘s Frost making a terrific move to the backhand and perfectly setting up teammate Boris Katchouk for a nice finish. Focus on how smoothly Frost transitions to his backhand and note the perfect location on the pass.

Here’s another incredible pass to Katchouk. Most players would take a shot here, but Frost freezes the defense and realizes his teammate has a slam dunk.

Now lets get to some goals!

Frost has been sensational this season at skating up the right side, cutting to the slot, and finding twine.

Lest you think he can only do this from the right side, here he is cutting to the slot from the left side and lighting the lamp.

He’ll also go to the front of the net – as he does here to finish off a nice pass with a top shelf re-direction for the goal.

One of the prettiest plays that Frost has made so far this season was this spinorama in overtime. He was trying to set up Katchouk but the puck ended up going into the net and Frost got credit for the goal – a huge one to help extend the Greyhounds winning streak.

Frost’s creativity is absolutely off the charts. He tries plays – like the above spinorama – that you rarely see guys try to do. And more importantly than trying them, they’re usually the right decision.

Some scouts questioned Frost’s speed during the draft. Seeing as how he was the fastest skater at the combine, that’s clearly a bit absurd.

Here’s an example of him flashing his speed to create a breakaway, which he finishes off nicely.

Part of why some scouts were concerned about his speed is because he tends to slow down when the puck is on his stick. While this season he has been making more and more high-level plays while going at faster rates of speed, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that he can slow the play down when needed.

While I’ve already compared Frost’s playing style to Crosby, I think you can also say that he has some Johnny Gaudreau in him as well. All three players have explosive first steps and use superior stickhandling to get around, or through, their opponents.

World Junior Championships Snub

I’m not going to spend too much time on this topic, because it’s not good for my health, but let’s briefly discuss the fact that Frost was not even invited to try out for the Team Canada’s Under-20 World Junior Championship team.

While these teams are often predominantly made up by 19-year-olds, Team Canada did select six forwards taken from the 2017 NHL Draft for their final roster. Of those six, three are currently 18 years old – Maxime Comtois, Alex Formenton, and Robert Thomas.

Comtois is averaging 1.00 P/GP in the QMJHL

Formenton is averaging 1.05 P/GP in the OHL

Thomas is averaging 1.70 P/GP in the OHL

Obviously based purely on points, while Thomas belongs, Comtois and Formenton trail way behind Frost in terms of production.

Comtois is a big boy, which certainly could play a part in his selection, but Formenton weighs about the same as Frost, albeit being a few inches taller.

I don’t buy the argument that Frost couldn’t crack their group of centers, because they’ll often move centers to the wing for the tournament if they are good enough. And Frost certainly has been good enough to make the team this season.

He’s been a lot better than some of the 19-year-olds that made the squad.

I’m just going to chalk it up to politics.

Frost was a largely unheralded draft prospect who has never represented Canada at any national events – and I simply think their decision makers didn’t have him anywhere on their radar.

Assuming he continues to play at a high level and does not make the Flyers next season, I would expect to see him for Team Canada a year from now at the World Juniors.

Where does Frost now rank among Flyers Prospects?

Back in August, I put together a ranking of the Top 15 Flyers Prospects.

I had Frost as the ninth-ranked Flyers prospect, which was actually higher than where most people had him.

I was bullish on him…

I expect Frost to light it up this coming season in the Ontario Hockey League with the loaded Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and take another big step up the Flyers prospects rankings next year.

However, I don’t think anyone expected him to have this incredible of a start to the season.

My #1, #3, and #11 prospects – Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg – have all graduated to the NHL this season.

Of the remaining Flyers prospects not in the NHL, I would vault Frost all the way into the top three alongside netminder Carter Hart, who is putting up otherworldy numbers in the WHL and will be starting for Canada in the WJC, and Philippe Myers, who despite an injury-riddled first season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms still has massive upside.

That means that based on the season he’s had so far, I am moving Frost ahead of four prospects that I had ranked higher than him going into the season – Oskar Lindblom (#4 to start season) German Rubtsov (#5), Felix Sandstrom (#6), and Sam Morin (#8).

I’ll be putting together an updated Flyers Top Prospects article after the World Juniors, and Frost’s exact placement in the top three is to be determined!

Future Outlook

So what does the future hold for Morgan Frost and how quickly might we expect to see him in a Flyers uniform.

From a purely statistical comparison – his numbers are extremely similar to another Flyers first-round pick’s 18-year-old season in the OHL.

In 2015, Travis Konecny averaged 1.68 P/GP and 0.73 A1/GP.

As a reminder, Frost is currently at 1.67 P/GP and 0.76 A1/GP.

Is it plausible that Frost, like Konecny, could make the Flyers next season as a 19-year-old?

Yes, it is certainly plausible. However, it’s unlikely for a few reasons.

  1. The Flyers were earlier in their rebuild heading into the 2016-17 season, and not as deep on the wings as they are now. From a roster perspective, Konecny had an easier path to make the team than Frost will have next season.
  2. Konecny is more of a stocky player who was more advanced physically as a teenager than Frost. My guess is that Hextall would like to see Frost keep filling out physically – he probably won’t be ready for the rigors of a full NHL season by 2018-19.
  3. The Flyers are pretty loaded down the middle. Even if they don’t re-sign pending free agent Valtteri Filppula (which they probably won’t), their centers next year will likely be Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, and Mikhail Vorobyev or Mike Vecchione. Even if the team decides they need a stronger second-line center than Patrick, it will probably occur either by moving Claude Giroux back to center or adding another center on a short-term contract.

So while ultimately Frost may be talented enough to play for the Flyers next season, it’s more likely he will be sent back to the OHL for one more campaign.

In terms of his ultimate position, he was drafted as a center and in general, teams prefer to keep players at their drafted position unless something necessitates a change.

In the case of Frost, the possible reasons why he wouldn’t end up as a center for the Flyers are that either the team is so deep at center that it forces him to the wing, or that he isn’t able to adapt to the NHL with the responsibilities that come along with being a center.

Based on his performance this year at center, the Flyers will likely look to keep him there as long as possible.

The bottom line is that Morgan Frost has exceeded all expectations so far this season and has been one of the best players in the entire Canadian Juniors system.

His upside now includes the possibility of someday being a true number one center for the Philadelphia Flyers.

**Credit to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Twitter account for many of the videos and photos used in this article – throw them a follow!**

5 comments

  1. Not surprised to see you move Frost ahead of Rubtsov (seems not to have taken a step forward this year), Sandstrom (losing a season to injury), or Morin (just not a very high ceiling), but I don’t agree that he should be moved ahead of Lindblom. Lindblom may have gotten off to a slower start than many expected in the AHL, but he’s got 9 points in his last 12 games and has been absolutely dominating territorially, close to 60% CF during that time. He and Frost both have top-6 ceilings, but given Lindblom’s older age, track record, and higher level of competition, I’d still slot him ahead of Frost. Nice article, though!

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