Morgan Frost

End to End: Which Flyers prospect has most to gain in 2017-18?

End to End: Which Flyers prospect has most to gain in 2017-18?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Which Flyers prospect has the most to gain in 2017-18?

Boruk
When I think about the prospect within the organization who has the most to gain, I take it from a bell curve approach where the line was skimming the bottom when he first arrived and has only been trending upward during that time. The one player that instantly comes to mind is goaltender Alex Lyon.

If you had to compose the perfect goaltender, you might take the athleticism of Jonathan Quick, the glove hand of Pekka Rinne with the puck-handling skills of an old Martin Brodeur. However, the Yale-educated Lyon may be the most cerebral-thinking goaltender on any team at any level. Spending 15 minutes with him back in April, Lyon provided more insight into his first season with the Phantoms than most goalies can provide in a season’s worth of quotes.

Combine that strong mental presence along with steady positional play and sound technique on the ice, and Lyon has the opportunity to swing that curve even higher. He exceeded expectations finishing with a 2.74 GAA and a .912 save percentage in 47 games while adjusting to the workload, conditioning and level of competition coming straight out of college.    

Helping Lyon’s cause is the team’s two-year transitional period at the goaltending position with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth serving as the stopgap tandem until the front office feels one of the prospects is ready to assume the No. 1 role. There will also be competition for the Phantoms' starting role with Lyon (undisclosed leg injury) and Anthony Stolarz (tore MCL in his right knee) working their way back from injuries.

Just in the past five years we’ve seen Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp and Eric Semborski (well, almost) make their NHL debuts, so it’s not outside the realm to think Lyon could get his shot if the Flyers are hampered with injuries and inconsistency. While few people may have the 24-year-old on the Flyers' radar, it was general manager Ron Hextall who recently reminded us, “Don’t forget about Alex Lyon.” 

Dougherty
It’s hard to look at Pascal Laberge and not want to root for the 19-year-old. Stories like Laberge's are one of my favorite things about sports. It reminds us athletes are people too. Laberge endured another season mired with adversity in 2016-17 but this time on the ice.

Laberge was the victim of a vicious, dirty hit to the head last October and suffered a pretty serious concussion that he said this summer forced him to sleep all day for the first month. The concussion forced him out of the lineup for over a month before returning for two games. Then the symptoms returned and he had to miss three more games.

During development camp in July, Laberge admitted he had confidence issues when he did return. He said he was shy to go to the boards and caught himself looking over his shoulder too much. Laberge finished the 2016-17 season in Victoriaville with 32 points in 46 games. Hextall said he didn’t like what Laberge went through last season, either, but he also didn’t like, at times, the level the Flyers’ 2016 second-round pick was playing to.

I view Laberge as a prospect that has been lost in the shuffle after his underwhelming campaign last year and I expect him to have a bounce-back season this season in Victoriaville. With added motivation, Laberge has an opportunity to prove himself again to the Flyers. That said, he is also a candidate to have the most to lose in 2017-18 too. If he has another down season, the Flyers could sour on him. But I don’t think that will be the case.

Laberge was a fringe first-round prospect in his draft year and fell to the second round. He has the playmaking and skills to be a pretty solid NHL prospect, but he’s dealt with some adversity. I believe we’ll see the Laberge who scored 68 points in 56 games during his draft year than the one we saw last season. He has both a lot to gain and lose this season.

But his story is one that you want to root for and you want to pay attention to. I certainly will be.

Hall
Some may see Morgan Frost and think baby-faced teenager, 5-foot-11, 172 pounds.

Frost might be a lot closer to the NHL than it looks.

First-round picks can rise quickly, while this man's league is becoming more and more predicated on speed, skill and smarts. Just look at Travis Konecny. He was 18 years old and 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, when drafted 24th overall in 2015. In his draft year, he put up 68 points over 60 OHL games. One prolific junior season later, Konecny was in a Flyers sweater on 2016-17 opening night.

Frost was drafted 27th overall this summer after turning 18 years old in May. The center is coming off a 62-point OHL campaign in 67 games. Every player's development is different, but there are similarities here to forecast the potential climb for Frost.

Playing with Bruins 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn, Frost racked up 42 assists in 2016-17 to take a big leap in his second junior season. In 2017-18, Senyshyn will be in the AHL or NHL. It'll be interesting to see how Frost's role changes in Year 3 with Soo, but more growth and another sizeable jump in production could have him in the Flyers' picture come 2018-19.

Paone
Let's face it — I'm not breaking any news here when I say the Flyers need scoring, and specifically from the wing, where only Wayne Simmonds has produced and shoveled pucks into the net consistently and been a true known commodity who hasn't lost goal-scoring touch for games or weeks at a time for the last several seasons. 

Don't stop the presses now with that info.  

Nicolas Aube-Kubel has proven in the past in junior that he can score from the wing. In four seasons with Val-d'Or of the QMJHL, Aube-Kubel put frozen rubber to twine 108 times all while becoming the Flyers' second-round pick in 2014. 

Last season was his first full pro campaign, and, well, let's just say things didn't necessarily go as he planned, as he tallied just nine times in 71 contests with the Phantoms. There were clearly adjustments that needed to be made to the size and skill of the AHL level, and, in many ways, expectations were tempered. 

Now, there's no real push or expectation for Aube-Kubel, a natural right winger, to make the Flyers out of camp. The eyes of Flyers fans will be on the Oskar Lindbloms and the Nolan Patricks of the world when it comes to the club's forwards. 

And that could be a good thing for Aube-Kubel. He can come into camp without any pressure, just play his game and leave an impression that will stick on Hextall, Dave Hakstol and crew. 

He's playing with house money. What exactly does he have to lose? Not much. What exactly does he have to gain with the orange and black poker chips he'll be playing with? A whole heck of a lot.

For Aube-Kubel, it isn't just about the here and right now at this very moment. His chances of making the club out of camp are quite slim. But it's about leaving that impression and keeping his name and skills fresh in the minds of those who matter.

Despite what happened last season, the kid can still score. That skill doesn't just evaporate in a talented 21-year-old. It was a year of development and learning the pro game. Now it's up to him to show what he learned.

If he leaves a mark by blistering pucks into the net during camp and the preseason along the same lines he did in his days with Val-d'Or, and then continues that production during the early part of the season with Lehigh Valley, Aube-Kubel could very well be among the first call-ups on Hextall's checklist.

That's a big skate blade stride he'll have the chance to take starting in September.

Flyers sign Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe to entry-level contracts

Flyers sign Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe to entry-level contracts

It turns out, the Flyers' offseason isn't exactly over just yet.

The Flyers on Thursday afternoon signed 2017 draft picks Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe to their entry-level contracts.

Frost and Ratcliffe join Nolan Patrick as the second- and-third draftees from June's draft to sign. Patrick was the No. 2 overall pick, while Frost was the 27th overall and Ratcliffe the 35th.

Hextall ended up trading up to draft both Frost and Ratcliffe, as he selected three forwards in the first 35 picks and two in the first round.

It was the second draft in three years the Flyers had two first-round picks. The other was in 2015 when the Flyers drafted Ivan Provorov seventh overall and traded up to pick Travis Konecny.

Frost was drafted with the first of two first-round picks acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the Brayden Schenn trade. The Flyers will get another first-round pick from St. Louis in either 2018 or 2019.

Some considered Frost to be a reach at No. 27, but the Flyers became enamored with the 18-year-old's hockey sense. During development camp, Frost described himself as a playmaker more than a scorer.

"I think you're always going to see more with more assists than goals," Frost said then.

The Flyers traded three draft picks — the 44th, 75th and 108th overall picks — to the Arizona Coyotes on Day 2 of the NHL draft in order to select the 6-foot-6 Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe was considered by many to be a late first-round pick. Hextall and his scouting staff liked the winger enough to trade three picks, which the organization values greatly under the current regime, to get Ratcliffe.

The London, Ontario, native scored 28 goals and 54 points in 67 games last season with the OHL's Guelph Storm. He scored twice in five games for Team Canada in the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship.

"I'm a big guy, I think I can play both offensively and defensively," Ratcliffe said June 24. "Really, that full-ice game and playing all areas in the zone. Adding that to their lineup, and being able to maneuver my way into their lineup, being with a lot of those guys … I think I can bring a lot to the table."

With Frost and Ratcliffe signed, the Flyers now have 48 contracts on the books. The limit is 50.

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.