Selected by the Flyers with the 27th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds center Morgan Frost had a breakout season in 2017-18. The player, who did not turn 19 until May 14, placed second to 20-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou in the Ontario Hockey League's most valuable player balloting He was second to Aaron Luchuk (who turned 21 in April) for he league scoring title.
During the regular season, Frost produced 112 points (42 goals, 70 assists; most of which were primary assists or the first pass of a tic-tac-toe goal sequence). His plus-70 rating at even strength topped all three CHL-affiliated leagues (OHL, WHL, and QMJHL). Frost also produced eight shorthanded points (4 SHG, 4 SHA) and won 52.2 percent of his faceoffs.
"It was a fun year. Really talented group of guys, obviously. It was probably my favorite year I've ever played hockey," Frost said.
Moreover, one of his most dominant stretches of the season came when several Greyhounds teammates - including regular linemate Boris Katchouk - were away from the team during the World Junior Championships. Whoever played on Frost's line, whether it was Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Ryan Roth or Barrett Hayton (shifted to wing when playing with Frost) saw their production increase.
During the playoffs, Frost notched 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 24 games. The Greyhounds, who by far had the league's best regular season record, fell two wins short of the OHL championship as they fell in six hard-fought games in the finals to the Hamilton Bulldogs, featuring Flyers prospect Matthew Strome.
Frost will get a long look during the Flyers' training camp in September, unlike last year, when he was an early roster cut after Rookie Camp ended. Odds favor Frost spending one additional season in the OHL. Unlike last year when he did not get a sniff at competing for a Team Canada roster spot for the World Juniors, Frost stands a good chance at earning a WJC roster spot for the 2018-19 tourney if he remains in junior hockey.
For his part, however, Frost is not ready to concede anything. He is spending his summer preparing to mount a serious challenge for an opening night roster spot for the Flyers.
"I think my opinion is different than other people's. I want to make the team. If I work my hardest, it's realistic but you never know," Frost said after the first on-ice day at the Flyers' summertime Development Camp.
In order to become NHL-ready, whether it is for this season or a future campaign, here are the three biggest keys for Frost to make the jump to the top level.
1. ADD MORE MUSCLE: Frost, who officially stands just a shade below 6-feet tall, has a relatively small frame. In order to succeed in close-quarters puck battles and withstand the pounding of a full NHL season and playoffs - and not just the first half of a regular season - he will likely need to add more muscle to his frame.
"I finished the season around 175 and taking some time off trying to eat a lot and get stronger. I'd like to play around [180 to 185 pounds]. As long as I can try and keep it over 180 that'd be ideal for me," Frost said.
During the OHL playoffs this spring, Frost was excellent in the first two rounds (especially a first-round sweep of the overmatched Saginaw Spirit). However, he appeared to wear down against tighter checking in the Western Conference finals against the Kitchener Rangers - where he was often matched against 6-foot-6 center Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators 2016 first-round pick) and 6-foot-7 defenseman Logan Stanley (2016 Winnipeg Jets first-round pick) - and in the OHL Championship round against Hamilton.
Frost is an excellent stickhandler. He will need to get a little heavier on the puck, though, at the NHL level.
2. PLAY AT NHL-PACE: At the 2017 CHL Top Prospects Showcase, Frost won the Fastest Skater competitions both with and without the puck. In game action, Frost's speed is used for purpose rather than for show.
Typically, Frost likes to slow down the play, study his options as he holds onto the puck and make a decision. He processes the game well with his advanced hockey sense and has a very deft passing touch. If he sees a swatch of open ice, he accelerates fast and can blow past a defender.
At the pro level, Frost will have fewer chances to dictate the pace to his own liking. He will have to play at his quickest pace on a regular basis. Otherwise, there will be less time and space with which to operate, fewer situations where he can stickhandle out of trouble, and it will be vital for him to keep his feet moving.
Frost's playmaking-oriented style is better described as "surgical" rather than "spectacular." With his hockey sense and skill level, there is not much concern over whether he has the smarts or hands to carve up defenses at any level.
However, the passing and shooting lanes disappear in the NHL very quickly. It's an adjustment that all players have to make, and Frost will have to show that he's ready to do it consistently at a quicker pace than he's used to at the OHL level.
Frost's defensive play improved considerably this past season to where he was one of the OHL's better 200-foot players. However, there are still adjustments ahead in his play without the puck before he's ready to play center at the NHL level.
While his stellar plus-minus partially reflected his two-way improvements, it also was a product of the fact that his line was usually in possession of the puck when it was on the ice. Since he won't have the puck as much when he's in the NHL, and he'll still be giving up size to many opponents, a little more defensive fine-tuning from what he exhibited in the latter rounds of the OHL playoffs will help him in the NHL.
3. CONTINUED SHOOTING IMPROVEMENT: Frost does not have an overpowering shot by any means but he has an accurate one. He picked up some pointers at last summer's Flyers Development Camp on quickening his release and fine-tuning some of his mechanics. Continuous work on it enabled him to more than double his goal output (20 to 42 goals) from his 2016-17 output.
"We talk about putting the puck in your hip pocket and the way you get off shots. I don't consider myself much of a shooter, so it's nice to learn some new things about how to release the puck and how you can make your shot better," Frost said.
Although still primarily a pass-first player, Frost shot the puck much more often (201 shots on goal) and with greater success (20.1 percent of his shots on goal went in the net) last season in the OHL. At the NHL level, with superior team defenses and goaltending, Frost will have adjustments to make.
In terms of shootouts, the Greyhounds did not employ Frost very often in those situations despite his speed and creativity. He had three shootout attempts last season and did not score.
It is unlikely that Frost will approach his 2017-18 OHL goal totals once he gets to the NHL. However, over time, he eventually has a chance to tally 20-plus per season along with a hefty number of assists. Goal-scoring won't be his primary attribute but there is upside in that area.