With Raffl, Laughton Returning, Morgan Frost Demoted to the Phantoms
Being the general manager of a professional sports team means making a lot of tough decisions. Decisions the fans won't like. The Flyers made one of those difficult decisions on Sunday, sending down top prospect and former 1st-round pick Morgan Frost to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The fact of the matter was that two players who dressed for Saturday's game against the Sharks weren't going to make it to the end of the road trip with the big club. Michael Raffl was eligible to be activated from long-term injured reserve on Sunday. Scott Laughton is expected to return from his groin injury as soon as Tuesday's game. So someone was going to have to go down.
Most people thought Andy Andreoff and Mikhail Vorobyev would be the two to go. After all, both have been merely passable in a fourth line role during multiple call-ups throughout the season. Both have had some good moments, and perhaps you can be certain of what you'll get from them on a night-by-night basis than you are with Frost.
But it's hard to argue either are better players than Frost. Certainly, neither have delivered nearly as much excitement as Frost. After all, the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft broke out with consecutive 100+ point seasons in the OHL leading into this season. After a great start and a lengthy point streak with the Phantoms, Frost was called up just over a month ago.
Frost's NHL career couldn't have gotten off to a better start. He became the first Flyer since 2013 to score in their NHL debut, lifting a backhander top shelf past two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Frost lit the lamp in his second game as well, sniping short-handed right off a face-off win for Claude Giroux. It appeared all was well with Frost's assimilation to the NHL.
But as time wore on, Frost's production started to dip. He hasn't scored a single goal since his second NHL game, a streak of sixteen games (he has recorded five assists in that stretch). Overall, Frost has produced a strong 51.85 Corsi at 5-on-5, meaning the Flyers outshoot opponents when Frost is on the ice. However, Frost's 48.96% Expected Goals For at 5-on-5 isn't great. In short, the Flyers had a greater quantity of shots but lesser shot quality with Frost.
Honestly, I don't think sending Frost down is a terrible move - in a vacuum. Frost has looked a little overmatched at times, and though I think he could have worked through his struggles while staying in the NHL, some extra seasoning in the AHL can't hurt. The Phantoms have also been struggling lately, and while their success can't be put before the Flyers, it will be nice for them to have some help. I wouldn't be shocked if Frost lights it up in the minors and is back with the Flyers before the end of the season.
But in the interim, is the team really better off with Andy Andreoff and Mikhail Vorobyev in the lineup instead of Frost? Neither come close to matching Morgan's upside, and have done little to stand out. Actually, I take that back - Vorobyev stood out in a negative way Sunday with the worst Expected Goals For% on the team and two minor penalties. Neither are completely outmatched at the NHL level, but keeping them over Frost is curious at best, confounding at worst.
Morgan Frost's first NHL stint certainly didn't end as hope. But it certainly won't be his last. Frost wasn't the dominant force he was in junior for the Flyers, but no one was expecting that in year number one. All Frost needs to do is work on dominating in the AHL like he did earlier this year, and he will likely be back up in no time.