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.