Sean Couturier's Injury Has Flyers Preseason Paging Morgan Frost

When Sean Couturier's name surfaced early Wednesday morning in a report highlighting a sudden knee injury, alarms sounded for Flyers fans.

Those sirens were deadened considerably when general manager Ron Hextall updated the status of his first-line center. This was not an aggravation of the MCL injury Couturier suffered during the playoffs and the 2018-19 regular season is not in danger.

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And … exhale.

But amid the collective phewwwww was a bell ringing in the distance for 19-year-old Morgan Frost.

His preseason just shifted in a different way.

As we know, Couturier's injury doesn't change a whole lot. No roster spot will open, but opportunity in exhibition games has and here is Frost charging hard off a 112-point junior season. 

The 2017 first-round pick has an outside shot at winning a job with the Flyers instead of returning to the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for a fourth and final year. That script remains untouched. However, Frost's showcase may be turning up a notch now that Couturier will miss at least the first four of the Flyers' eight preseason contests while possibly playing in just two.

No Couturier impacts all the centers jostling for position in the Flyers' picture - Scott Laughton, Jordan Weal, Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev, German Rubtsov and Frost, one of if not the most noteworthy in Couturier's absence given the teenager's identifiable strength of facilitating when surrounded by talent.

"We've got enough centers to take a look at, it's the one position that we've got to sort out," Hextall said Wednesday. "We've got enough guys, you know, the Jordan Weals, Scotty Laughtons and [Jori] Lehtera and a couple of our kids. We've got enough players to fill. Again, we need to look at some of those guys in that position."

Over the past few preseasons, head coach Dave Hakstol has strategically placed his top prospects vying for roster spots alongside NHL regulars to best gauge readiness. During the 2016 preseason, Hakstol used Travis Konecny with Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl. Last fall, Nolan Patrick saw time with Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal.

Both Konecny and Patrick won roster bids at 19 years old by not looking out of place. They fit in with those players and were ready to jolt the Flyers now, not later.

"What stands out for Morgan is his hockey IQ," Drew Bannister, Frost's junior head coach last season, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia in January. "It doesn't matter who you put him with, he's just going to make them better players."

Conceivably, Frost this preseason was going to see some ice time with proven NHLers. Now, it's much more likely he plays a prominent role next to the Flyers' current difference-makers, which would, if anything, add an anticipated layer to exhibition play.

The quick-skating pivot is a constant threat with his creativity. He had a transformational 2017-18, filling out physically and producing a 50-point increase from the previous year. After a 42-goal, 70-assist season in which Frost posted a plus-70 rating, imagine him flanked by a few NHL wingers?

Should be fun.

"I think for me, playing with a goal scorer is part of the best thing because I'm a guy that likes to distribute," Frost said in July 2017. "At the same time, I feel like I can contribute offensively in terms of scoring, but I'm definitely a playmaker."

Could Couturier's injury mean zilch for Frost's 2018-19 chances? Sure, but training camp is all about leaving an impression. The Flyers will be a bit more impressionable to start this preseason and Frost has his opening.

Let's watch and see how much he answers the bell.

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