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Frost focusing on improved defense with Flyers

Center prospect becoming well-rounded player with 'awful lot of upside'

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Center Morgan Frost said he was a one-dimensional player focused solely on scoring when he joined Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League two seasons ago.

Once he learned there was more to the game than offense, Frost developed into the player the Philadelphia Flyers selected with the 27th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.


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"It's not about scoring goals or setting up goals all the time if you're going to be on the ice for goals-against," the 18-year-old said. "Plus/minus was something I wanted to improve on, and be harder to play against. Play defense. And they turned me into a more well-rounded player."

Frost had 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 67 games last season. He also was plus-15 after being minus-6 in 2015-16.

The Flyers acquired the 27th pick, along with a conditional 2018 first-round pick and forward Jori Lehtera, in a trade with the St. Louis Blues for forward Brayden Schenn on June 23.

"He's an extremely intelligent player," general manager Ron Hextall said. "That's his No. 1 asset. Really smart, reads the ice well. Got a very deft touch moving the puck. Good two-way player. … We believe it's a kid with an awful lot of upside."

That upside needed to be built over time. Sault Ste. Marie coach Drew Bannister said during Frost's rookie OHL season in 2015-16, it took him a while to trust that the coaching staff could find a role that fit his skill set.

"After Christmas as a 16-year-old, he became one of the more reliable hockey players for us," Bannister said. "He played against 19- and 20-year-olds and did very well and exceled and became a big part of our team at the end and the success we had in the playoffs.

"Morgan as a player is extremely intelligent the way he reads the game. He skates well, [has a] very high skill set and makes players around him that much better. He sees the ice very well. He's able to control the game, speed it up and slow it down, draw players, checkers, into areas that he wants them, to give himself a bit more ice or give his linemates more ice to create offensive opportunities.

Bannister said Frost has learned the importance of his play away from the puck.

"The biggest thing with Morgan is the defensive side, and all kids going into their draft year, they have this perception that they have to put up huge numbers to be a high draft pick," he said. "Morgan learned to play away from the puck last year."

There were further changes last season, but Frost again acclimated himself and produced. He also served as cure-all for slumping teammates.

"If a winger is struggling, we tend to put that person with Morgan to get that person going," Bannister said, "because Morgan has a good sense of getting the puck to guys in good opportunities and get them going."

Frost said he enjoys being a distributor. He played most of the season on a line with Zach Senyshyn (Boston Bruins), who tied for sixth in the OHL with 42 goals.

"You're always going to see me with more assists than goals," Frost said. "But playing with a guy like [Senyshyn] it definitely helps that stat because he's a goal scorer. I think for me playing with a goal-scorer is probably the best thing because I'm a guy that likes to distribute and at the same time I can contribute offense with my scoring. But I'm definitely a playmaker."

Frost also be a penalty-killer this season, with Bannister looking to find more ways to get him additional ice time.

"We know what Morgan can do 5-on-5, we know what we he can do on the power play," Bannister said. "I would like to see him take the next step and get him on the ice a little bit more and kill penalties for us. I think that's the next step for Morgan."

Frost is looking forward to the challenge.

"I want to be more of a two-way player," he said. "I haven't played any penalty kill in my first two seasons. Being put in that role helps that and shows me off better as a two-way player."

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