First Round Targets: Zack Phillips



While Mika Zibanejad projects to a top-10 draft pick despite lackluster totals in the SEL, Zack Phillips is probably going to go in the latter half of the first round despite managing 38 goals and 95 points in the QMJHL. Point totals can be deceiving at the NHL level, but they are orders of magnitude less useful when it comes to evaulating kids in different leagues it seems.

Phillips played on the powerhouse Saint John Sea Dogs with top-five candidate Jonathan Huberdeau. He had the second best point total and PPG pace (1.42) on the team behind Huberdeau (who also a frequent linemate), but doesn’t project nearly as well in most scouts eyes. The Sea Dogs were the best team in the QMJHL last year, garnering 119 points during the regular season and a ridiculous +159 goal differential. The strength of Phillips’ team and linemates means we need to consider his totals with caution: although his NHL equivalency is the best of any player we’ve discussed so far (0.397 or 32 points) his percentage of team offense is one of the lowest (29%). He also scored a team high 15 power-play goals, which was by far the highest ratio of PPG to total goals on the Sea Dogs (39%). In contrast, Huberdeau, who scored 43 goals to Phillips 38, managed 13 on the PP (30%). On top of all that, the QMJHL is roundly considered to be marginally weaker overall than the OHL or WHL.

So the totals were there, but they come with some red flags. Corey Pronman’s scouting report on Phillips is similarly conflicted:


If you want a player with flash, Phillips is anything but that, however the late ’92 birthdate does have a couple of notable tools that have made scouts notice him. His hockey sense is above-average which is evident in how he consistently anticipates the flow of the play. Once he senses his team is about to gain possession of the play, he jettisons into an open lane to receive a pass and get the puck up the ice, yet is responsible defensively, works hard in that aspect and in viewings of Phillips he showed very effective penalty killing. That work ethic is apparent in the offensive size too as despite his frame that significantly lacks muscle he goes to the physical areas consistently. He’s a solid distributor and on the power play will occasionally flash above-average in that regard. Zach’s a solid to above-average finisher with good accuracy on his wrist shot.


The major issues with Philips which is going to really hamper his pro potential are his fringe skating and his body. He has heavy feet and despite a decent first step, the tool really lacks pro-level qualities. While Phillips did succeed at going to the net at the Junior level, he has a ton of gym work ahead of him before he’ll be ready to do it at the NHL level. While he frequently lined up at center in the QMJHL this year, he projects as a winger and I’ve seen him be effective as a left wing.


Strengths: Good offensive instincts, good work ethic, accurate shot

Weaknesses: Poor skater, needs to get bigger and stronger

Being weaker and slower isn’t the best combination whatever your other strengths, so it’s obvious why Phillips lags behind other potential first rounders whom he outscored during the year. NHL CS ranked Phillips 15th amongst NA skaters, while the ISS doesn’t even have him in the top-30 overall. Pronman ranked Phillips 24th.

Unlike many of the other targets we’ve discussed previously, it’s entirely probable that Phillips will be around when the Flames pick at 13. The question is whether his upside has been inflated by playing in a weaker league on a juggernaut team and if he can overcome a couple of obvious deficiencies to translate that offense at the next level.

  • icedawg_42

    Reminds me a bit of the Hitmen’s Joel Broda. Pro level wristshot IMO, but “heavy feet” and that was the knock on him. He was a top scorer in the dub, but I think he’s only cracked the ECHL to this point. Not overly tall but built like a brick $(*house.

  • The way I see it…

    – The big-5 (Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Landeskog, Couturier, Larsson) go in the top 6, in no particular order;

    – Zibanejad, Strome, Hamilton go in the 5-8 range;

    – Murphy, Bartschi, Siemens go in the 9/10/11 spots;

    – Armia, McNiell, Phillips, Beaulieu still on the board at 12 (Canes take Armia?).

    *fingers crossed* McNiell still there at 13. Flames could/should try moving up a spot or two (or four).

  • I like McNeill, I really do. But at the same time there’s just something about the Flames drafting another big guy from the WHL that puts me off. But, at least he’s a center.

    • Another big guy from the WHL?”

      Who/when was the last? Seriously, I’ve looked thru the last 10 drafts and haven’t found one. Certainly not in the 1st round. Unless you want to count Dion Phanuef, who technically, was a big guy from the Dub… but that didn’t exactly leave a bitter taste in our mouth (at least in terms of being a legit NHLer).

  • icedawg_42

    If a knock against Bartschi was playing with the Winterhawks, Phillips is a double Knock. He seems decent enough minus the skating, size and strength can be changed with a good condiditioning coach.

    The interesting thing with him is that he’s a C/LW combination player, Other than Tanguay we really don’t have a “skilled” LWer, which is why I’m big on Bartschi as well.

    And if Backlund and Reinhart conitnue to develop and progress, Backlund could stay as our #1 center and Reinhart would eventually take over as #2 and if McNeil is a pure Center, looking at a guy like Phillips is an option, he can play center if either Backlund/Reinhart don’t work and if they do, he can play the wing.

    • icedawg_42

      Well that works for me, can play behind Iginla on the second line, no problems with that and then can slide over to center if there are some trades or Backland/Reinhart don’t work out.

      I like McNeil and Bartschi as our two best targets that should be available at 13. Mika Z would be nice if he falls, Armia is a nice consolation prize if McNeil and Bartschi both get snapped up as well. And if all 4 of those get snapped up before we have a chance, there will be one high profile defender to pick or we have Phillips which may not be a bad conselation prize.

    • Well if we are picking at 13 it should be expected he could be NHL ready now or within a year. I fully expect Iginla to be here this year at the least, he’s signed for another year after that, though that is the lockout year(potential), it all depends on his performance and if he wants to leave town I guess, but me personaly I’ve never been on the Iginla trading bandwagon. I just don’t think we are gonna get the returns that everyone thinks we are. Looking back at all the “Big” trades over the last 5 years, looking at those trades, those teams never got anything close to the player they gave up.

      From the write ups a guy like McNeil could be NHL ready this year already so its entirely possible, even then he could be here next year, were I would really hope Iggy is still here and scoring goals.

      • icedawg_42

        Not sure I’d agree with you here – if we were drafting in the top 5 then I’d say reasonable expectation is to play with some regualarity in the NHL within his first 2 seasons. I agree with your take on Iggy’s trade value. He should stay here till he retires.

        • It all depends on how well you asses the prospects NHL readiness, like I said previously, Skinner and Fowler both jumped in and made immediate impacts. Even at 13 I think you can find a prospect that is NHL ready, or at the least would be better suited to playing at an NHL level rather than an AHL or WHL level. With McNeils size and playing style all indication from everything I’ve read leads me to believe he could be given a legit shot to start the season and if not, we might see him next year as well.

          With this Phillips kid though, I could see him taking a few years to develop his skating and getting adjusted to first AHL and then NHL. I never really trust prospects out of the Q as much as the OHL/WHL, the Q is mostly offense and open play rather than the hitting and grinding you find in the NHL and some of the prospects out of the Q have some of the bigger learning curves.

          • icedawg_42

            Yeah – I should qualify that a bit more – THIS year, the draft isnt considered too high end outside the top 5…but you’re right McNeill’s write up suggests he’s got the tools and the size to make the transition quickly…but I just dont know if 1 or 2 years is where I’d expect that. He’s only 18 (I believe) – and IMO these kids benefit a LOT from getting put into leadership positions in the junior ranks. I think their 19 year old year in the CHL is very good for development.

      • The amount of prospects that make the jump to the NHL as teens is vanishingly small. I think there were 5 teens in the NHL last year (which is probably more than average thanks to both Skinner and Hall coming out of the same draft).

        Jarome Iginla was the last Flame to make the team as a teen and that was his 19-20 year old season, for example. Phaneuf might have done it if there was no lock-out.

        It’s possible the Flames will get a high-level prospect who can contribute right away at 13, but I wouldn’t bet any money on it.

        As for Iginla, he has 2 years left on his current contract at the end of which he’ll be 36. I fully expect him to look for greener pastures at that time.

  • Yeah, I have to go with Kent and ID42 on this one. That’s way too much to expect from a #13 pick. Even though he may have a physically mature body, it still doesn’t mean his actual game is at that level. More to making th eNHL thanjust size and strength. Besides, the scouting reports on him vary wildly. He could well be a #2 a few years down the road or he could top out as a #3. His size and strength iin the Dub may be the reason he’s dominating so much now (as mentioned in the report posted on FN).

    Also, it’be nice if Iggy was still scoring 40 2 years from now, but even the best power forwards with the most longevity begin to tail off considerably in their mid-30’s. Even the odd one that can still put up points begin to seriously lack in other areas.

    Best to let whoever we draft develop at their own pace. I get as frusturated as anyone at Calgary’s unwillingness to give young guys opportunities, but 2 wrongs don’t make a right and rushing a kid in is disastrous far more often than it ever pans out. The Skinners of the world are a very rare breed. Earning the opportunity is still important and shouldn’t be confused with a former GM’s willingness to sign over-the-hill FA’s at any cost vs. giving a chance to guys who have earned it.

    Trying to accurately predict when any new draftee will make an impact in the NHL is a dangerous game.

  • Thanks guys for all this draft coverage here and filling me in on some prospects the Flames may have a shot at taking. I don’t know much about any of these guys, but now I have some info on them. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  • Based on all I’ve read about prospects possibly available at #13 , selecting Zach Phillips makes me the least confident.
    I would rather have guys like Mark Scheifele and Jonathan Miller as centres, and might even go for wingers like Tomas Jurco and Ty Rattie before Phillips. Although defensemen might not be high on our list James Oleksaik might even be a better choice.
    This is all based on the assumption that other higher rated guys including Mark McNeil aren’t available at #13.

  • icedawg_42

    Craig Button’s mock draft has the Flames picking Phillips saying “The Flames will get lucky in the draft with him” – so right away you know it’s a bad idea. Schevvy you’re killing me over here!