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Matthew Phillips is one of the WHL’s best snipers

Matthew Phillips is not a large person. This is indisputable fact. The Victoria Royals forward was a sixth round selection of the Calgary Flames in 2016 and despite his small stature, the kid is one of the most feared snipers in the entire Western Hockey League.

Half-jokingly dubbed the “Baby-Faced Assassin” by Royals fans, Phillips is not a physically intimidating person. But only two players in the Dub scored more goals than Phillips’ 50 last season: Lethbridge’s Tyler Wong and Swift Current’s Tyler Steenbergen, both of whom are larger and older than Phillips.

We caught up with Phillips in between sessions at Flames development camp.

Do you come into this camp with a bit of a confidence boost given the performance you had last season?

It feels good to kinda think it’s been a year and I’m back here and I know that I’ve gotten a bit stronger and I have another season under my belt is a confidence boost. It feels good to be here and it’s fun to see new guys and after the past season I think I gained a lot of confidence. I played a lot more and we had some different situations, like some long, long playoff games and stuff like that. It was good and I feel pretty good coming in here.

There were only a handful of players that scored more than you last season. Does that give you a boost heading into what could be your last year in junior?

I guess a little bit. There’s a lot of good players in the Dub this year, there’s a lot of teams that had some deep teams – Medicine Hat had about eight 30-goal scorers or something crazy. The offense was pretty good this year, I’m pretty happy with how I played in every game. It’s confidence and hopefully I can be more of a leader heading into my last year.

How did your time in Stockton go?

It was pretty disappointing to lose out but going down to Stockton was the perfect silver medal to that. It was awesome. I was there for a month and I got to see firsthand how guys fighting for jobs approach the game. So I think it was good not only to play some regular season but to play in the playoffs and see a playoff series. So I think taking that and the level of play there gives me a lot of confidence coming into a camp like this.

When we chatted during the season, you mentioned Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane as players you wanted to be like. What was it like watching Mangiapane firsthand?

I think Mange is a guy that I think we played similar games, and he’s a couple years older so he’s a bit ahead and he already had a year of pro under his belt. Twenty-goal scorer as a rookie is something not a lot of people get to do, so he had a great year. He’s a perfect guy to kinda watch and model after, and hopefully I can have another good year in Victoria and hopefully make the jump after that.

You’re headed to World Junior camp at the end of the month. Were you surprised to get the invite?

Obviously really exciting. I’ve never been to any sort of Hockey Canada event, U-17 camp or anything like that so I guess I was a bit surprised. I think it’s pretty cool. There’s 25 really good forwards going there so it’s going to be a battle for sure, but that recognition feels pretty good so it’s something that doesn’t get to come around too often for a lot of kids so I’m feeling pretty grateful for that and hopefully I can go there and do my best and make a good impression and see what happens.

Have you had any talks with the Flames about a contract yet, or is that something you’re leaving on the back-burner?

That’s kinda something that I can control with my play. I can give myself a good opportunity, but I mean overall if I’m just thinking about a contract it might not go too well. So I’m just trying to work my hardest and go day-by-day and I’ve got another year to earn a contract, so we’ll see what happens and kinda hope for the best.

  • The GREAT WW

    I like this kid.
    Really small size makes it unlikely he makes the show.
    However unlike the Oilers we didn’t waste a first round pick on a tiny player….

    WW

    • McRaj

      Flames are junk. No1 on your team is as good as McDavid or Drai. I like how Tree is building his team to try and beat the Oilers. Wooo McDavid until he is 30 🙂

      • RedMan

        I’ve re-read your comment a couple times and still cant figure out what you’re trying to say. best advice, save your liver and quite drinking so early in the day

      • TriPPiNvdUb

        Key word is “Built” and not gifted for being the NHL welfare recipients. The Flames were assembled through handwork, great drafting and shrewd trades…

      • Eggs Bennett

        TJ Brodie has 181 career points. McDavid has 148 career points. Therefore, TJ is clearly the better offensive player. If McDavid got 100M, TJ deserves 150M. Not to mention he is a defenceman. Clearly the Flames are just much better at negotiating.

      • ALL THE WAY IN

        Nobody on our team was a 1st overall pick. We have 1 top 5 pick in team history and you’ve come to show off you’re symbols of ineptitude? I’m happy you guys got gifted such a talented player to keep up with us, and I’m also happy you got Chia at the helm so he can put another team into salary cap hell. Oil Change v4.0 will commence sooner than you’ll think and I’ll be here waiting for the next Oiler troll’s balls to drop so I can put him in his place too.

  • freethe flames

    Just got back from the development scrimmage. My thoughts from it: Parsons will be very good, lots of good D prospects, none of the forwards demonstrated that they are close to being NHL ready. Here’s hoping the the older forwards are ready to push the pile(Janko/Lazar/Shinkaruk/Klimchuk).

  • Fan the Flames

    The game has changed immensely since Theo or Martin St Louis broke into the league .
    Jared Spurgeon
    Victor Arvidsson
    Tyler Johnson
    Johnny Gudreau
    These guys are all very effective players the combination of speed and skill can allow them to overcome their lack of size . I love watching the little guys controlling the game.

  • Puckhead

    I thought Phillips was one of the more noticeable forwards at the scrimmage today, along with Dube and Mangiapane. These smaller guys transitioned quickly, were shifty and were always trying to press the play and create scoring chances. I noticed that Mangiapane, in particular, likes to use his feet a lot and uses them effectively to allude poke checks. Even made a sweet little kick pass for a scoring chance.

      • Puckhead

        Fox and Valimaki were killer player together. Smooth skaters with crisp passes and good positioning.

        Ras was in shape and is a quarterback-type defenseman. Confident on the puck with great vision. He’s got the Jagr hair thing going and it makes him easy to pick out from a distance.

        Kylington is playing a more defensively responsible game and scored a nice PP goal from the top of the circle.

        Ruopp was intriguing. The guy has size and played well on D. His partner Teves played decent as well but looks a bit on the small side.

        Mattson and Healy played with some bite and Mattson has some nice skill. Healy loves to ‘blow guys up’ and and had the biggest hit of the day.

        Foo had a great one-on-one chance on Parsons but got stuffed. Parsons is the real deal.

        Overall, the defence stood out the most for me, followed by some of the smaller guys – Mangiapane, Dube and Phillips.

        I was talking to the fellow beside me about Poirier and he said that Emile looked great in training camp this week. He had a decent game.

        Overall, I would say that the D won the day.

        • McRib

          I watched a couple of Bloomington games last year online and felt that Mattson’s coach (weirdly Everett just hired him, after finally firing the same old school no offense coach in Constantine) didn’t give him a ton of opportunities to flourish offensively. I liked him last year as well at this Camp, hope he figures it out under a much better coach at UND.

        • freethe flames

          Generally I agree with assessment of today’s scrimmage. I also wanted to add that I thought that the Ruzicka line had a couple of note worthy shifts where they cycled the puck very well but did not create any grade A scoring chances. Also I would also like to add that McDonald held his team in a number of times especially when they were on the PP.

          This year the scrimmage included 5 on 5 time which I don’t recall from the last few years. There was also extended 5 on 4 hockey (PP), 3 on 3, and penalty shots. On thing I wish they would do is have all the Penalty shots at the one end, Foo had a sweet goal and we loved it but so did Valimaki but it was at the far end.

          The depth on the farm is especially on D; Fox and Andersson could be brothers they play so much a like, Kylington skates like the wind and exceptional offensive skills, O-M(don’t sleep on him), Healy and even Doetzel looked good. My real concern for this organization for next year is the Center position; once you get by the 7 known centers (Monahan , Backs, Bennett, Stajan, Janko, Lazar, and FHamilton) there is no one other than Prybil for the farm and I don’t think the wings will develop w/o quality centers. Dube will still be in the WHL, Mattson at college(I believe), Ruzicka the W and Lindsrom who I did not notice at all today is in Sweden. 7 centers for the NHL sounds like a lot but let’s remember that a couple of them will likely be playing on the wing in the NHL this season.

          • Puckhead

            I noticed Ruzicka and he was quite involved to start but seemed to fade as the game worn on. Hawerchuk seemed to have a decent nose for the net but he’s a smaller guy who needs more time to develop. When I saw him I was thinking, please not another small guy. Lomberg seemed to get under some skin but I was expecting a lot more from him. I didn’t notice Joly at all – did anyone? And Hunter Smith is just big – that’s all I have to say.

      • C Watson

        This year’s scrimmage was a lot of fun to watch and I imagine a ton of fun for the players. I agree with the assessments already written and some of the lesser known players (invites) impressed. I also thought Lomberg made things happen every time he was on the ice and he did score that goal that lay on the goal line for a couple of seconds. Hunter Smith made a lot of noise crashing into the boards a couple of times long after his intended targets had vacated the scene. Funny!
        In spite of creating a couple of passing faux pas leading to break a break away and a two on 1 for the other team, Valimaki and Fox looked like a D pairing for the future.

  • Atomic Clown

    Remember way back in 2012, under the leadership of the great Jay Feaster, when the flames traded their 12th overall pick to Buffalo, and proceeded to select then NCAA prospect Mark Jankowski, and the Sabres then selected Mikhail Grigorenko with said pick? Grigorenko was touted as a top 5 pick few months before the draft, and many said the flames reached for Jankowski, even with an early 20 pick. Grigorenko just signed with a KHL team, while Jankowski is set to become an NHL regular.

    • freethe flames

      The debate around Janko now is what is the best way to deploy him as he appears to be NHL ready. There have appeared to be three lines of thought; one is to have him center either the Johnny/Monny line moving Monny to RW, or have him center Bennett, another is have him center the 4th line and the third is have him replace Tkachuk on the Backs/Frolik line. This would be my preference. I get the people who question the idea of breaking up the 3m line as it was very effective but I see Tkachuk as able to benefit Bennett more than him needing to play with the 2m’s. Also it could allow GG to try Tkachuk with Johnny/Monny if Ferland doesn’t work out. I am excited to see what GG decides at camp as there are plenty of interesting options.

      • Atomic Clown

        I agree with moving Tkachuk to Bennett wing, and letting Jankowski season on Backlund wing. Backlund and Frolik could drive play north with a rock (which they did with Bouma). Letting a rookie play minutes like that would do wonders for his confidence, and let him play a full 200ft game.

        • Puckhead

          As I’ve mentioned recently, GG likes to pair his best forwards in groups of two – Monahan and Gaudreau, Frolik and Backlund, Bennett and ??? Common sense would suggest that Tkachuk will be paired with Bennett to see if they click. As much as I think Tkachuk has earned a shot on the top line it’s probably more important for the team to find a partner for Bennett.

        • freethe flames

          It would also allow for the potential development of chemistry between Bennett and Tkachuk and along side Versteeg has the potential for a solid 3rd line. This would also allow Lazar to play center or rw along side the veteran Stajan. This way both Janko and Lazar can take some faceoffs and build on their games. This could be exciting but there will be growing pains which ever direction GG takes.

      • OKG

        Agreed, plenty of options. I don’t see it being an immediate option, but the idea of Gaudreau-Jankowski-Monahan by March/April sounds like a cup run waiting to happen.

        • freethe flames

          I’m not prepared to start planning a parade just yet. Hopefully by the trade deadline either Janko or Lazar are ready to be the full time 4th center and BT can trade Stajan and recoup a draft pick. For us to be in the cup discussion lots of things need to go right; Brouwer need to return to form(unfortunately I am not overly confident about this) Janko has to prove to be a top 9 forward(I’m more confident about this), Lazar needs to be worthy of being a former 1st rounder, Ferland needs to be the right fit, Bennett needs to develop into the player we are hoping for and young Tkachuk needs to show continued growth and be able to help carry a different line. If all of these happen then we might be talking about a long playoff run.