Morgan Frost, the other 1st-round pick, can help Flyers, too

Morgan Frost, the other 1st-round pick, can help Flyers, too

VOORHEES, N.J. — Morgan Frost was teeming with nerves.

The Flyers had just called his name on the night of the NHL draft, so emotions were running wild as he made his way to the spectacle's forefront at the United Center.

"It was pretty crazy," Frost said last week. "Walking up the stage, I thought I was going to fall over."

Unlike that concern, Frost has no trouble staying upright on the ice. His speed, skating and skills are what made him attractive to the Flyers, who selected the 18-year-old in the June draft with the 27th pick acquired via the Brayden Schenn trade.

With the deal, Frost became the Flyers' second first-round choice of the night, joining No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick. And similar to Patrick, Frost is a skilled forward that thrives when skill surrounds him. Put Frost with talent, and he'll make it better.

"I think I'm definitely a playmaker first," Frost said. "I think you're always going to see me with more assists than goals."

That rung true last season when Frost put up 42 assists compared to 20 goals in 67 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. Alongside Bruins 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn, a bona-fide goal-scoring winger, Frost dished the puck plenty and also produced a 22-assist increase from his first year of junior play.

"Playing with a guy like Senyshyn definitely helps that stat because he's a goal scorer," Frost said. "I think for me, playing with a goal scorer is part of the best thing because I'm a guy that likes to distribute. At the same time, I feel like I can contribute offensively in terms of scoring, but I'm definitely a playmaker."

Frost provided glimpses of that ability through a variety of drills and competition at Flyers development camp, his first real taste of the NHL.

"It's super special," Frost said. "The first step on that ice obviously meant a lot to me. It's still pretty surreal for me to be here. I'm definitely excited."

Now with an NHL organization, Frost hopes to grow both physically and defensively. An offensive stalwart listed at 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, Frost was able to see how he can improve those areas after spending six days with the Flyers.

"Giving them an early view of our expectations as an organization of ways to improve their game, whether it's skill-wise or strength-wise," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said of development camp.

"Being a pro and showing them ways to develop physically and as an athlete."

Over time, Frost wants to show he can be an all-situation center. He feels he has already started to with the Greyhounds, who will continue to give him greater responsibilities in 2017-18, including penalty-kill minutes.

"They kind of stressed that to me right when I got there," Frost said. "I was kind of a one-dimensional player, offensive. They stressed that it wasn't all about that, 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. So plus-minus was something I wanted to improve on and just be harder to play against, play defense. They turned me into more of a well-rounded player."

Over 65 games in 2015-16, Frost was a minus-6. He went to a plus-15 in 2016-17. And while he wants to become more complete, making a difference with the puck on his stick will be his ticket to the Flyers.

"I think that's a skill I've had ever since I was a little kid, just being able to see the ice and slow the play down a little," Frost said. "But at the same time, I think that's developed with coaching and practice."

After getting to know the Flyers, he found new ways to work on those strengths.

"We're watching video, watching just little things that you can do with your skates — ways to change your angle, use your edges," Frost said. "That's one thing that I definitely want to do and I want to be able to accelerate better.

"The first three steps and once I get up to speed, I'm fast and I can use my speed to my advantage."

And to help his teammates, too. That's what Frost does best.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Team Canada names Sean Burke GM for 2018 Olympics
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres re-sign goalie Lehner to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils re-sign 3 restricted free agents
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.