Morgan Frost‘s NHL audition is over, for now.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old center was among 10 players who were reassigned from the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp roster.
Waiver exempt, Frost was assigned to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. So were four other players — forwards Linus Sandin, Tyson Foerster and Isaac Ratcliffe and defenseman Linus Hogberg.
In addition, four players were placed on waivers. Forwards Gerry Mayhew, German Rubtsov and Connor Bunnaman, and defenseman Adam Clendening will report to the Phantoms if they clear. Center Cal O’Reilly, who is on an AHL contract, was released from his PTO with the Flyers. He will also report to Lehigh Valley.
Frost, Bunnaman Didn’t Do Enough
Frost was coming off a long rehab following shoulder surgery early last season. It was hoped that he could position himself as Kevin Hayes‘ stand-in while the 29-year-old recovers from offseason abdominal surgery.
The return to Philadelphia for the 2017 first-rounder started well enough. He dominated over younger, less experienced competition at both development camp and rookie camp.
Once main camp began, Frost got into three of Philadelphia’s five preseason games, consistently playing in the top six. He was defensively steady but didn’t make an impression as a scorer or a distributor. He failed to pick up a preseason point.
Frost’s AHL demotion is not a death knell for him — far from it. He’ll get lots of quality ice time in Lehigh Valley. With any luck, he continue to grow his game and put his shoulder surgery behind him. The disappointment, for him, is that he couldn’t grab a Flyers roster spot that had his name on it. The opportunity might not be so clear-cut when he’s ready to challenge for an NHL job.
As for Bunnaman, the versatile 23-year-old played 18 games with the Flyers last season. He’s familiar to the coaches and with his hardworking style, he appeared to have the inside track on the 13th forward position.
No dice. Requiring waivers for the first time in his career, Bunnaman will start his season in Lehigh Valley if he goes unclaimed.
Building The Phantoms
Earlier this week, the Flyers assigned eight other players to the Phantoms. That list included their top pick from the 2021 Draft, Samu Tuomaala. Two players were also returned to their junior squads — 2021 fourth-rounder Brian Zanetti and 2020 fifth-round pick Elliot Desnoyers. Both youngsters impressed in their first pro camps, with Desnoyers turning heads in his spirited performance in the Flyers’ overtime win over the Boston Bruins on Monday.
The Phantoms played their first AHL preseason game on Wednesday night, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena. They’ll host the Penguins in Allentown this Saturday before closing out preseason with a home-and-home set against the Hershey Bears.
After Wednesday’s cuts, 24 healthy players remain on the Flyers’ training camp roster — 13 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. Before the regular season begins, the roster will need to be cut to no more than 23 players. Salary-cap considerations could cause the club to start the season with 21 or 22 men.
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Remaining Roster Battles
Among the remaining forwards, one name stands out — Jackson Cates. Signed as a college free agent last April after three years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Cates is a 24-year-old center who dressed for four games with the Flyers late last season. He has appeared in two exhibition games so far and, since he’s still around, it’s not unreasonable to think that coach Alain Vigneault will take another look at him in the preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Friday.
On the back end, journeyman Nick Seeler and highly regarded prospect Cam York are still in the mix, along with the presumed top six. Signed as a free agent this summer, Seeler drew praise from Vigneault during his three preseason appearances. York is waiver exempt. Like Frost, the 20-year-old will most likely be assigned to Lehigh Valley to start the season, where he can play big minutes and work to hone his pro game.
Even without Frost, Alain Vigneault has some options when filling out his slots at center. Sean Couturier is a lock and new arrival Derick Brassard has looked good as a pivot during preseason. Nate Thompson can take care of fourth-line defensive duties while winning more than his fair share of draws.
After they close out their preseason in Washington on Friday, the Flyers’ main group will have a week to practice and fine-tune its game before beginning the regular season on Friday, October 15 against the Vancouver Canucks.