Former Barrie 'AAA' star to face off against ex-teammates Friday in Sault Ste. Marie
Soo Greyhounds centre Morgan Frost fires the puck into the Windsor Spitfires zone during first-period OHL action Wednesday night at Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. The 17-year-old Frost, who was a star for the Barrie Colts minor-midget 'AAA' team a couple of years ago, will face a pair of former 'AAA' teammates when the Barrie Colts visit Sault Ste. Marie on Friday night. JEFFREY OUGLER/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Morgan Frost admits it's always special anytime he gets to face the Barrie Colts.
The former Colts minor-midget 'AAA' star is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces Friday night when he and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds host Barrie.
"It's definitely special. I know a couple of guys on the team, so that will be nice," said the 17-year-old Hounds centre, who will lineup across Colts minor-midget alumni Matt Brassard and Lucas Chiodo.
"That Barrie minor-midget team for me, they really helped build my confidence," added the Aurora native, who recorded 53 goals and 103 points in 68 games with the 2014-15 Colts midget team. "I think that's what kind of got me going and really prepared me for this level (OHL).
"Even the guys that were a year younger than me, you're starting to see them coming into the league," he said. "I have nothing, but good things to say about that organization."
Frost has certainly taken his own game to another level in this his second OHL season. The gifted play-maker has already surpassed his rookie goal scoring totals, recording 11 goals and 13 assists in 27 games with the Hounds.
"I think my first year in the league really helped me just comfort ability wise," said Frost, who had seven goals and 27 points in 65 games last season. "We've been playing really well together as a team. The guys that I've been playing with on my line, they've been really supportive. So it's been a good recipe for success so far."
Like any other player coming into the OHL, Frost knew there'd be adjustments to his game he'd have to make. He looked more and more comfortable as his rookie year went on and that's allowed his natural skill set to come out.
"Speed and, for me, I'm not the biggest guy, so I think the physicality and the strength of the guys was a bit of an adjustment for me," said the six-foot, 170-pound centre, who was selected by the Hounds in the fourth round (81st overall) of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.
"I think once you play a bunch of games you're kind of getting used to it," Frost said. "You can feel your way around the game and know when to move the puck quick enough and that kind of thing."
With this his NHL draft year, Frost was eager to show he could play a bigger role with the club this season. That meant spending the summer ensuring he would be ready from Day 1.
"The guys being a lot stronger in the league was an adjustment for me, so I knew I had to get stronger and definitely worked on that in the summer," said Frost, who is expected to be selected in the top three rounds of this year's NHL Draft. "I worked on my skating a bit as well, whether it was the edges or balance, or that kind of thing.
"It's shown for me so far. I'm benefitting from it, so that's a good thing."
Frost's play-making skills and vision on the ice make him a player opposing teams always have to be aware of on the ice.
Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk watched Frost with the midget Colts and is impressed with what he's seen at this level as well.
"We don't see (Sault Ste. Marie) too often, but he's always had a good hockey sense and awareness on the ice, that's for sure," Hawerchuk said.
His determination and commitment on the ice and during the off-season to get better is a reason Frost's game is on the rise.
"As players get older and stronger, the ones that work at it, put the hard work in, they start to take off," Hawerchuk said. "I would assume (Frost) put in some of the hard work and now he's reaping the benefits."
Earning the trust of Hounds coach Drew Bannister has also lead to more ice time and responsibility. Frost is centring one of team's top lines, between Boston Bruins prospect Zachary Senyshyn and overager Bobby MacIntyre.
"I definitely love playing with them," said Frost, who played with MacIntyre last season and sees himself as the play-maker on the line. "They're two guys that like to score goals and I'm a guy that likes to set them up. I think it's a perfect formula and it's been working well so far."
Frost knows he can't just focus on his offensive game if he wants to play in the NHL. Becoming more of a 200-foot player is something he is continuously works on with the coaching staff, day in and day out.
"The offense will sort of come for me naturally and I obviously want to keep building that part of my game, but if I can, become that reliable player that the coach wants to put out in that last minute when we're up by a goal," Frost explained. "I think that's definitely something I want to be and something I'm looking to be," he said.
His goal coming into the season was to be a player that could be counted on at both ends of the rink and in all situations.
That will continue if he keeps improving his play without the puck.
"Drew's put a lot more trust in me so far," he said.
Frost tries to pattern his game after Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund. He noticed Granlund when he was playing for Finland at the world junior championships a few years back and has watched as he's developed into a key player for the Wild.
"He's not the biggest guy, but he plays with a lot of skill and he's a smart player for sure," Frost said. "He's a play-maker and kind of turned himself into a 200-foot-player, which is something I'm striving to do as well."
The Hounds are off to strong start this season, leading the West Division with an 19-7-1 record. They are also the OHL's hottest team right now. A 4-1 win over the Windsor Spitfires at the Essar Centre on Wednesday night extended their win streak to eight games.
They've sent a clear message to Western Conference powerhouses Erie, London and Windsor that they are right there with them.
"I don't think we get enough credit for how good we really are and how well we've been playing lately," Frost said. "I think we're starting to get recognized as we're beating some of these teams. We beat London, we beat Windsor.
"It's a tight, tight race in that conference. There are a lot of good teams, but we're definitely confident."
A young Barrie club that has won just twice in its last 10 games will have its hands full Friday with a Greyhounds team that has seven NHL prospects on the roster.
"They've got a pretty skilled club and they're pretty deep, but it's a good test for us," said Hawerchuk, whose northern swing this weekend wraps up Saturday night in Sudbury. "We've got to be sharp. We always talk about let's be consistent game in, game out. Shift in, shift out.
"This is a game you've got be consistent every time you're on the ice."
Hawerchuk is quite familiar with the style of game the Greyhounds play, led by Canadian world junior selection camp invitees Blake Speer and Senyshyn.
"They're a quick strike team and we were a lot like that the last few years," the Colts bench boss said. "They got a pretty good skill set that they can do that, some world junior talented guys, and we'll have to be ready."
Game time for Barrie's lone trip to Sault Ste. Marie this season is 7:07 p.m., Friday.
ICE CHIPS: Roy Radke, out since Oct. 28, will once again not suit up this weekend. "He doesn't feel perfect yet," Hawerchuk said of his overage winger. "You can't rush those high ankle sprains, they're tough. If you push it too hard, too early then you'll be out another four to six weeks." D Cam Lizotte (upper body) and F Kirill Nizhnikov (unspecified) will also not play this weekend, while D Tom Hedberg (flu) returns Friday after missing last Saturday... The Colts will face a depleted Wolves lineup Saturday in Sudbury thanks to lengthy suspensions to forwards Michael Pezzetta (10 games), Drake Pilon (8), Chandler Yakimowicz (8) and D Zach Wilkie (5).