If it’s true opportunity only knocks once in hockey, then don’t just calmly answer the door, tear it off its hinges.
That’s the scenario facing Flyers rookie center Morgan Frost as we reach the mid-point of the preseason schedule.
With usual second-line pivot Kevin Hayes sidelined by abdominal surgery and expected to miss the first month of the regular season, it would appear Frost has a chance to showcase his talent for close to a dozen games.
In a way, this is the biggest opportunity of Frost’s young career. After a 20-game trial during the 2019-20 campaign, he made the opening night roster for the 2020-21 season. A devastating shoulder injury in just the second game required surgery and shelved him for the rest of the schedule.
Coming into this year’s camp, the former 2017 first-round draft pick actually gets another crack at the NHL and he’s looking to make the most of it.
The trick here is to not put too much pressure on himself and just let his natural talent come through.
“I probably put a little too much pressure on myself in that first game,’’ Frost said on Saturday morning, referring to Thursday night’s encounter in Boston. “I was probably overthinking. I’ve done these camps before, I’ve played in preseason games, I’ve played in NHL games. So now that I’ve got the first one out of the way, I’m going to calm the nerves a bit and do my thing.’’
Frost did look better in Saturday night’s game against the Washington Capitals. He’s centering a line with Joel Farabee on right wing and James van Riemsdyk on left. Coach Alain Vigneault indicated this is a line which he probably will use when the Flyers take the ice for their regular-season opener on Oct. 15.
Vigneault has made it clear the puck is undoubtedly in Frost’s corner in this early going.
“I saw a couple flashes,’’ Vigneault said. “The young man hasn’t played hockey in a year and is coming back from a serious injury. He is going to get a chance to play some more games and hopefully every game, every shift he gets better.’’
The Flyers would love to see Frost have a breakout start and create a job competition among veteran centers such as Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson.
Frost, a 22-year-old Aurora, Ontario native, was taken 27th overall in the ’17 draft after then-GM Ron Hextall traded Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for that selection.
Some might consider this a make-it-or-break-it year. Pressure much?
“It’s definitely a mental battle for me for sure,’’ Frost said. “I’m just trying to stay calm, poised and do my thing out there. I obviously want to make this team and want to make an impression but I don’t want to grip my stick too tight.’’
Frost says he eases the tension by phoning his parents back home in Canada. They don’t talk much hockey but just how things are going in his life in general.
“They just kind of calm things down,’’ he said. “We just talk about everyday things. It takes my mind away from it (hockey) a little bit. When it’s game day, I try to be as locked in as I can. They’ve always been really good supporters of me. I don’t like to talk to them too much about hockey. I have enough of that when I’m at the rink. It’s the lifestyle when you’re here. . .hockey, hockey, hockey. I think it’s important once in a while to give my mind a break.’’
Carter Hart is scheduled to start in goal for the Flyers when they face the Bruins on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Hart allowed only one goal in two periods of work against the Islanders in the opening preseason game. . .Goalie Martin Jones said communication with his defense improved in the second game (the 3-1 win over the Caps): “Just to have our group in the dressing room and work a little closer with some of the D-men that I haven’t seen as much. The boys were talking out there and I thought we were strong on our own end.’’. . .Claude Giroux on Cam Atkinson’s skill level, following Atkinson’s game-winner against Washington: “He has a lot energy and he doesn’t lose a lot of battles. He is not scared of traffic. You saw his goal, he gets in there. I have played against him a lot and it’s good to have him on our side.’’