It was late last October, and Morgan Frost’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds were making an early statement. Or so they thought. Down three goals after one period to Isaac Ratcliffe’s upstart Guelph Storm, the Hounds howled back, scoring once in the second and twice in the third to send the game to overtime.
Frost’s goal started the comeback, after Ratcliffe had given his team an early lead. The two Flyers prospects, at or near the top of a pool of talent that is still among the NHL’s best, had forged a friendship through rookie camps they had attended since the Flyers had picked them eight spots apart in the 2017 amateur draft.
And if there’s one thing about hockey friendships, it’s this:
It heightens chirping.
``Oh yeah, I remember that game,’’ Frost was saying the other day. ``And I remember that I definitely heard it from him.’’
Especially in overtime, when Frost’s attempt at a cross-ice pass was picked off, triggering an odd-man rush that ended the Ontario Hockey League game in the Storm’s favor.
``I might have said a few things,’’ Ratcliffe said.
``We like to give it to each other,’’ Frost said. ``We’re very good friends.’’
The Flyers hope that friendship begets a generation of on-ice productivity for both Frost, chosen 27th overall that year, and Ratcliffe, taken in the second round with the 35th pick.
The Frost pick was a no-brainer. Then-general manager Ron Hextall traded Brayden Schenn just to move ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks that year and pick the 5-foot-11½ center (``If someone wants to give me that 6-foot, I’ll take it,’’ Frost quipped).
Frost had great hands, was smart, and had almost a savant-like feel for the ice, nurtured by the hours he spent aside his father, Andy, a former public address announcer at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Chosen to play for the Greyhounds when he was just 16, he flourished on offense after the Flyers drafted him, amassing 112 points over 67 games on a team loaded with talent in 2017-18. He followed that up with a 109-point effort in 58 games this past season.
He also earned a spot on Canada’s World Junior Championships team. He scored three goals and had two assists in his first game in World Juniors, a 14-0 blowout of Denmark. He finished with eight points in Canada’s five games and, at least as important, a plus-8.
The previous summer, the Flyers had sent him back to Sault Ste. Marie with the mandate to play more responsibly in his own end. And he did, mostly. That gaffe against Ratcliffe was an outlier, and a painful reminder.
``I think I played more defensive this year,’’ he said. ``That’s one thing I’ve gotten feedback about, taking care of my own end. To make sure that I’m not cheating. That’s one thing I’m focused on for sure.’’
Will it be enough to skip some seasoning in Allentown and join the Flyers in the fall?
``I’m the kind of guy who tries to keep an open mind,’’ Frost said.