Have the Flyers improved? Certainly. Will the relatively new powers who run the club hesitate to shake things up? Doesn’t seem like it.
A three-game losing streak and an offensive slump that has lasted a couple of weeks prompted the Flyers to call up highly regarded prospect Morgan Frost from the AHL’s Phantoms on Monday. Coach Alain Vigneault, just as he did with Joel Farabee recently, wasted no time giving Frost some prime real estate on the roster, either.
Frost, a 2017 first-round pick, will center a line that includes Travis Konecny on the right side and Claude Giroux on the left Tuesday night when the Flyers visit the Florida Panthers. Giroux will be the line’s primary faceoff man.
“You know, we’re 20 games in. We feel we’re in a good place. We feel that our team in these 20 games has improved, but there are definitely some areas where we need to continue to improve,” Vigneault said.
Frost, 20, is tied for the Phantoms’ lead with five goals and 12 points in 16 games. He had a groin injury in training camp that hurt his chances of making the opening-day roster. Farabee, his close friend and the Flyers’ 2018 first-round pick, was called up Oct. 20.
“We’ve got to put those guys in situations where they can best help the team, but also have an opportunity to perform,” Vigneault said. “They’re offensive players, so that’s where we’re putting them in.”
The addition of Frost allows Vigneault to move center Michael Raffl to the fourth line alongside Andy Andreoff and Tyler Pitlick. That’s been an effective line. Farabee and Oskar Lindblom will skate with Sean Couturier, which leaves the Flyers’ three most prominent struggling and well-paid forwards left to figure things out for themselves. But they better hurry.
“The [Kevin Hayes] line -- with Jake [Voracek] and James [van Riemsdyk] – that should be a big, good NHL line. They should be able to contribute five-on-five and play well offensively and defensively,” Vigneault said.
“I love Kevin Hayes as a person. James and Jake -- I’m starting to learn are great people. But I need more from the hockey player. I know that they want to do well. We’re 20 games in. It’s time.”
Vigneault coached Hayes for four seasons with the Rangers.
The three players combine for $22.3 million of this year’s salary cap -- more than 27 percent. They have one goal total in nine games this month (JVR, Nov. 7).
“I’m not telling you anything I haven’t told them," Vigneault said. "Obviously, they feel pressure, but that’s why they’re paid the big bucks. You’ve got to deliver. You’ve got to produce and we expect those guys to produce.”
Frost was in Allentown on Sunday, playing video games with Phantoms teammate Isaac Ratcliffe, when he got the call about his promotion from Phantoms coach Scott Gordon, who convinced Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher that Frost was ready.
“They’re giving me an opportunity here to play with two amazing players [Konecny and Giroux],” said Frost, who will be in the lineup on Tuesday at Florida. “I FaceTimed my dad. I don’t even know if he’s ever used FaceTime before. It was really special to make that call.”
Expect defenseman Phil Myers to return to the lineup on Tuesday. The rookie defenseman had some sloppy turnovers on Friday at Ottawa and was scratched for Saturday’s loss to the Islanders. “We watched some tape with him," Vigneault said. "He’s a good young player. We’ve got a lot of belief that he could be a good player in this league. [It was] a reset for him.”
Defenseman Matt Niskanen was given a maintenance day off on Monday. Vigneault said he will skate Tuesday morning in South Florida and expected him to be ready Tuesday night. ... With Niskanen out, reserve forward Chris Stewart filled in as a defenseman for Monday’s practice. ... Another roster move is imminent as Scott Laughton (broken finger) inches closer to returning. If he’s cleared by doctors on Thursday, Laughton, a key penalty-killer, will practice Friday and could play Saturday against the visiting Flames ... Frost will become the fifth Flyer already this season to make his NHL debut, joining Farabee, Connor Bunnaman, German Rubstov, and Carsen Twarynski, who was sent down to the Phantoms to clear the roster spot for Frost.