Flyers’ Frost is top six or bust in Philadelphia

Flyers' Morgan Frost and Felix Sandstrom
Philadelphia Flyers’ Felix Sandstrom, left, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Morgan Frost celebrate after an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Morgan Frost has been a healthy scratch in 7/13 games, conjuring many opinions from those who want nothing more than for John Tortorella to place him in a permanent top-six role.

Last season, he strung together his best run on the Philadelphia Flyers. Frost finished in the top five of team scoring, finishing the 2022-2023 campaign with 27 points (11G, 16A) in the final 41 games. It seemed like Frost finally found his confidence and fit with Tortorella.

The 2023 Flyers Training Camp and Preseason provided a first glimpse. Did Frost carry that momentum from his finish a season ago? Tortorella liked what he saw at camp, and Frost did produce points while competing with and against lineups intermingled with AHL players. He appeared in the opening night lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Then, he was in the lineup against the Ottawa Senators. When the Flyers returned home at the Wells Fargo Center for the home opener versus the Vancouver Canucks, Frost was a healthy scratch with Emil Andrae.

What happened? Tortorella was adamant that Frost wasn’t in a doghouse. He told everyone he wanted to put Frost into more offensive positions, accentuating his playmaking. In recent performances, Frost generated scoring chances with Travis Konecny and Tyson Foerster but didn’t recoup the rewards. The answer has less to do with the stat sheet but more with how Tortorella wants his lineup to approach hockey.

“I’m never going to be a physical guy, but just trying to use my body a little more [and] making sure I’m in the right position, using my stick, playing defensively, little stuff like that. He [Tortorella] obviously really appreciates hard work and the little details.”

Morgan Frost; 4/27/2023

A Frosty Finish

Most of those 27 points (25) to finish the second half of last season were during even-strength hockey. The other two points (1G, 1A) were on the powerplay. 

Over that stretch, Frost contributed to the stat sheet versus the Washington CapitalsAnaheim DucksChicago BlackhawksWinnipeg JetsLos Angeles KingsSeattle KrakenCanucksMontreal CanadiensTampa Bay LightningVegas Golden KnightsCarolina HurricanesFlorida PanthersMinnesota WildSenatorsBuffalo SabresPittsburgh PenguinsSt. Louis Blues, and Blue Jackets.

Flyers' Morgan Frost
Philadelphia Flyers’ Morgan Frost, left, is congratulated for his goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

That sample size represents more than half of the NHL and includes half of the playoff field from last postseason. Overall, the winning percentage of those opponents was 48.2%. Frost scored multiple points six times in that stretch (vs. MTL (x2), vs. CAR, vs. BUF, vs. FLA, and at CHI).

“I need him to do what he does best. See, the thing with Frosty [Frost] is he’s really worked on the play away from the puck, and I think he’s more consistent there for me now than the offensive part of the game. We need him to bring us some offense.”

John Tortorella; 11/9/2023

He efficiently generates offense in even-strength hockey. Frost led Philadelphia in even-strength points, though he played 21 more games than Konecny. He had a breakout season. This season is a different story, and in a crowded room, Frost had to separate himself from returning veterans like Sean Couturier while competing for a top-six role against Scott Laughton and Noah Cates.

Frosted Flyers: 2-4-0

The Flyers’ record with Frost in the lineup is 2-4-0. Here’s how his numbers look in his six games:

  • Frost in 6GP: 15:37TOI, +1, 8SOG, 38.2%FO, 2BLK, 6HIT, 3TK

At the SAP Center against the San Jose Sharks would’ve been a perfect opportunity to slide Frost into the lineup.

“Frosty’s [Frost] in a spot where if he’s not playing in the top-six, I don’t have a spot for him. He’s not killing penalties, I’m not going to put him between D-Lo [Deslauriers] and Garny [Hathaway]; I just don’t think he fits there. It limits situations as far as where I find him. He’s going to play on the powerplay, he’s going to be put into an offensive situation, and I just need to be able to hang my hat on something as we go through there because I think Poehls [Poehling], in his role, has done a good job; a penalty killer, plays center, big, big, good skater. I have to worry about the mechanics of a lineup, too, when I’m playing people and sitting people out. I don’t enjoy sitting anybody out, but I have to make those decisions.”

John Tortorella; 11/9/2023

In an uncontroversial decision, Couturier reclaimed his role as the 1C against the Sharks, returning from his day-to-day status with a lower-body injury. Ryan Poehling is the 4C, and when he was a healthy scratch versus the Buffalo Sabres, Laughton occupied his role to make room for Frost in the top six. A day-to-day lineup features Couturier and Poehling designated for those roles. 

Unfrosted Flyers: 3-3-1

The Flyers’ record without Frost in the lineup is 3-3-1. Here’s how some of the other forwards in the lineup fared after their first six games this season:

  • Foerster in 6GP: 14:20TOI, 2A, 9SOG, 2BLK, 5HIT, 3TK  
  • Atkinson in 6GP: 20:04TOI, 4G, -2, 17SOG, 4BLK, 3TK, 5GV
  • Farabee in 6GP: 15:25TOI, 3G, 1A, +4, 13SOG, 3HIT, 2BLK, 2TK, 3GV
  • Laughton in 6GP: 14:43TOI, 4A, +2, 22SOG, 58.9%FO, 7HIT, 6BLK, 1TK, 1GV
  • Konecny in 6GP: 16:57TOI, 5G, 2A, +1, 18SOG, 5HIT, 2BLK, 3TK
  • Tippett in 6GP: 15:51TOI, 3A, -1, 18SOG, 4HIT, 4BLK, 3TK, 2GV
  • Cates in 6GP: 15:49TOI, 1G, 2A, +2, 8SOG, 43.5%FO, 1HIT, 3BLK, 4TK

Each of those skaters notched more than a point in their first six games in the lineup. When Frost is in the lineup, he averaged more ice time than Foerster, Laughton, and Joel Farabee. He occasionally swaps with Cates in the middle-six, which explains why they have a similar average time on ice.

Laughton is the more physical center, creating offense via defense. The sample submits that Laughton is about 20% more successful at the faceoff dot, and Cates is about 5% more efficient. Those players occupy the middle-six instead of Frost because of a healthy mix of point production, winning faceoffs, and a brand of checking that Tortorella demands of his lineup.

Frost: Flyers in Anaheim

Frost will be in the lineup tonight when the Flyers visit the Ducks. Putting him into the lineup likely indicates Poehling will be a healthy scratch. Laughton would fit in the 4C role.

Nothing says Frost cannot earn a more prevalent role in the lineup, either. Philadelphia is in a bit of a scoring drought. If Frost breaks his dry start to the season in Anaheim, that should earn another start in the lineup. Apply the same logic, but on the powerplay, and Tortorella will have to meet with Rocky Thompson about deploying Frost more often.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)