It was one thing to have rookie Morgan Frost make the Flyers’ season-opening roster, albeit as a spare forward, but quite another to toss him on the top line in his first game action.
But that was the decision made by coach Alain Vigneault on Sunday when he had Frost practicing at center between Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom in the Skate Zone, Voorhees, N.J.
Frost’s services were required after No. 1 center Sean Couturier was hurt in Friday night’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh. During a collision with the Penguins’ Jared McCann, Couturier suffered a “constochondral (joint) separation’’ (rib cage injury) and will be out of action approximately two weeks.
Frost will get his big chance Monday night when the Flyers host the Buffalo Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center.
During a media Zoom call on Sunday morning, Vigneault said he thought about shuffling his lines but ended up keeping them together and simply inserting Frost in Couturier’s spot.
That said, it’s clear Frost has impressed Vigneault enough to earn that duty, which also might very well include time on the Flyers’ top power-play unit.
“With Morgan, I think he deserves this opportunity, to play with TK and Oskar,’’ Vigneault said. “What went into our decision also, we feel like the other lines are building some chemistry.
“Morgan is considered to be a skilled offensive player, (so) well, I might as put him in that role with two pretty good players. He’s going to get an opportunity tomorrow to play a good game for us and I’m sure he’s going to put his best foot forward.’’
The draft rights to Frost came via a trade with St. Louis, which saw Brayden Schenn head west to the Blues. The Flyers took Frost with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Last year he was brought up from the Phantoms during the season and started off strong, scoring goals in his first two NHL games. Then he proceeded to score exactly zero in his next 16 games before he was returned to the Phantoms.
That had to be a bit of a letdown but he didn’t dwell on it or let it affect his play. He wound up with 13 goals/29 points in 41 games at Allentown. In some ways, like most young players, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude during times like those.
“I think it was important but at the same time it was my first year,’’ the 21-year-old Frost explained. “I was just focused on getting better everyday, I don’t think I was too down about it.
“Obviously I wanted to be with the Flyers but I try to be positive wherever I am.’’
The 20 games he did play with the Flyers were productive from an overall standpoint even if the offense wasn’t where he wanted it to be.
“I think so,’’ he said. “It’s been a while since I played an NHL game. . .I definitely feel more prepared than the last time I was here.’’
The 6-foot-0, 180-pound Ontario native should fit in well with his two wingmen.
“I will try to keep things simple,’’ he said. “I want to make some plays but at the same time be reliable at both ends. Give myself the ability to let the coaches have trust in me to keep me in the lineup.’’
Both Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux are big believers in Frost.
“Frosty, he’s an exciting player,’’ Hayes said. “He’s a great kid, he works hard. He’s fun to be around. He really wants to learn. I know he wants to be in the lineup every single night. Now he’s getting a good opportunity. I don’t want to speak for him but I’m sure he’s excited.
“If he plays the right way defensively, he’s going to add some serious offense.’’
Added Giroux: “Frosty is a great player. Last year when he played for us, he was great. His hockey IQ is really high. We’re all very excited for him to get back in the lineup. He’s fun to watch so we’re looking forward to it.’’
Once the nerves settle down, Frost should be fine. He hasn’t played a game since March 11, so he wants to take it all in before taking chances.
“I feel comfortable,’’ he said. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to help this team win.’’
>Cleaning things up
Even though the Flyers outscored the Penguins, 11-5, in the season-opening two-game set, there was an abundance of sloppy play on Philly’s part.
What has to get better?
“Offensively, when you score 11 goals in two games, that’s exactly what you’re looking for,’’ Hayes said. “But as a team, we need to tighten things up defensively. We talked about it.
“It’s early on. We’ve been lucky enough to get good goaltending but I think we all know we need to be better defensively.’’
Because the Flyers play the Sabres in back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, Vigneault said he will split his goaltending assignments.
Carter Hart (2-0, 2.50 goals-against average) will start Monday’s game and Brian Elliott will see his first action of the season on Tuesday.