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FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects: #12 Matthew Phillips

During Brad Treliving’s tenure as Calgary Flames general manager, the club has begun a pattern of sorts in terms of their late round picks. They’ve drafted a few big players and a few European players, but they’ve also invested heavily in a surprisingly lucrative portfolio of smaller, skilled players with insane offensive numbers.

The 2015 draft produced Andrew Mangiapane. The 2016 crop netted them Victoria Royals sniper Matthew Phillips, who’s quietly become one of the most feared snipers in Canadian major junior hockey. He’s our 12th-ranked prospect this year, up from 15th last year.

A brief history

Phillips, a Calgary kid, came up through local minor hockey and plied his trade for the Bisons in bantam and the Buffaloes in midget. His offensive numbers were impressive, but there was no way he was going to be able to translate it in the WHL. A second round selection by Victoria in the 2013 Bantam Draft, the hope was he’d be a productive contributor despite his size.

After an impressive two game appetizer in the 2014-15 WHL campaign, Phillips blew the doors off the Dub in 2015-16. His first season in major junior was his first year of NHL Draft eligibility, which can often be a recipe for disaster as players try to learn nuances and adjust to the size and speed of the WHL while also trying to look impressive for the scouts. Phillips? He had 37 goals and 76 points in 72 games, good enough to capture the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award. He fell to the Flames in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, primarily because he’s a small lad.

In his draft+1 season, Phillips was even better. He had 50 goals and 90 points in 70 games, good enough to be named a First Team All-Star at year’s end. He made his pro debut in a brief stint with the Stockton Heat, getting an assist in his lone regular season appearance before going pointless in two playoff games. (If you want to nitpick, he looked a bit lost in the intensity of the AHL playoffs but a good deal of that might have been fatigue from a WHL playoff series with Everett that involved the longest game in Canadian major junior history.)

The exciting thing about Phillips is how well he stacks up against his WHL competition, even when you eliminate the benefit of the time and space provided to him on the power play. Typically, smaller players really rely on power play time to dish the puck and create offense – Brayden Burke is an example of this. Phillips was 10th in the WHL in points and one of five players with 50 goals scored, one goal shy of a share of the league lead. His 33 power play points were modest compared to the other league leaders, but his even strength production was pretty impressive given its context: he was sixth in the WHL in five-on-five primary points and fourth in goals – and everyone who produced more than him at even strength was older. Compared to his age group, Phillips was one of the most productive offensive players in the WHL and he more than doubled his even strength goal-scoring from his rookie season.

Oh, and he tormented the Calgary Hitmen during his first trip to town as a Flames prospect.

Quotable

The Kelowna Daily Courier’s Larry Fisher had very positive impressions of Victoria’s baby-faced assassin.

The Flames prospect I’ve bonded with the most over the past two seasons, Phillips is impossible not to like — on and off the ice — and you can’t help but root for this kid. The scout in me saw something special in my initial viewings and I knew Central Scouting was missing out by leaving Phillips off their mid-season list for the 2016 draft. Good on Calgary for taking a chance on the hometown boy and Phillips didn’t disappoint in scoring 50 goals as a sophomore this past season after being named the WHL’s rookie of the year. Phillips has big game, but the fact is he’s tiny — not small, but tiny… even compared to Johnny Gaudreau.

ESPN 710 Seattle writer Andy Eide had a similar assessment of Phillips’ game.

Speed is the name of the game for the undersized Phillips. He only stands 5’6 but exploded for 50 goals during his second season in the WHL with the Victoria Royals. Despite his size, he’s not afraid of the corners and his quickness gets him out of trouble while putting pressure on the opposing defense. He sees the ice well, is a finisher and should be in the mix to lead the WHL in scoring – he finished 10th with 90 points in 2016-17 – this coming season.

Fisher seems a bit bullish on Phillips’ pro potential because of his tenacity and drive, despite his size.

Phillips is fearless, driving the net as hard as any power forward in the WHL and not shying away from the corners either. That might get him hurt somewhere down the road as a pro, but you have to admire Phillips’ dogged determination. As they say, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. It’s been fun watching Phillips and Dube go head-to-head as key players in the Victoria-Kelowna rivalry, with Dube delivering a bit of a headshot on Phillips in their final meeting of the regular season, though I’m sure they’ve laughed it off by now.

What comes next?

Phillips won’t turn 20 until the spring, so he’s back in the WHL for one more – possibly final – season.

He’ll be expected to once again be the focal point of Victoria’s offense (for a new coach this year after Dave Lowry’s hiring by the Los Angeles Kings) and one of the most feared offensive players in the WHL. He’s on the radar for Team Canada’s entry at the upcoming World Juniors. Considering his prodigious offensive production, the hometown boy factor and that the Flames have until June 1 to sign him, it’s a smart bet that he’ll be inked to an entry-level deal before too long.

Previously

#20 – Ryan Lomberg #19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson
#18 – Daniel Pribyl #17 – Eetu Tuulola
#16 – Adam Ruzicka #15 – Emile Poirier
#14 – David Rittich #13 – Hunter Shinkaruk

    • The GREAT WW

      “the Flames have until June 1 to sign him, it’s a smart bet that he’ll be inked to an entry-level deal before too long.”

      Sounds like a Falkovski disaster in the making all over again…..

      WW

    • Flames fan since 83

      I hope we give him a real chance despite his size.
      I recall one of the primary reasons we dealt Martin St Lois was because he was small, and we already had a small player in Theo Fleury.

      • oilcanboyd

        The period in the NHL that Martin St Louis played was different than today’s NHL – more bang and crash, hooking and holding onto players as they are to cross the blue-line. The only person in the Flames management that gripes about too many small players is Burkie and he may not be here long…

      • BlueMoonNigel

        No, Marty St. Louis was not regarded by Flames’ brass as a player with much offensive upside in the NHL so they hobbled him with grinders. Look at the linemates he had in Calgary.

        Wasn’t that Buttons and Bows running the show then? Button made Riser look like a pretty savvy GM.

        • Carl the tooth

          I was comparing st loius to fluery then the smart guys traded hi. For nothing it was o virus that he had speed and skill despite playing on a fourth line with two others that likely didn’t belong in NHL . I knew that flames messed that one up ….who was the bright GM who traded Marty again? Then st loius ties game 6 in the finals (after gelinas should have won us the cup ) ahhhh but Murphy was present that day .

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Just don’t tell that to an Oilers fan. They don’t see the similarities between the two players. Their numbers at a similar age are almost identical. The only thing they see is 1st round vs. 6th round.

      Don’t worry, he will get signed. Falkowsky only really had a short stretch where he did anything. He may eventually get to the NHL, but we had so many ahead of him on the depth chart.

      • moore_tweets

        I think the point is that we let For walk away for nothing. We probably could have seen at least a later Rd for his rights. Wow, I’m actually agreeing with Walt on this.

        • Kevin R

          Not sure why everyone thinks we let him walk for nothing when the player could have been demanding a better opportunity in Stockton & an ELC contract. So who of Kylington, Andersson, Healy, Tspoon, Kulak, Valimaki is going to be given a shot & who knows, Fox may go pro the end of next season, are you going to keep behind. Falkovsky as intriguing of a prospect as he may be needed to chill. LA could guarantee him prime AHL time. Wait until the kid does anything to warrant the bemoaning, you can only give so man prime opportunities, especially to late round picks.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          We have to sign a deal with him or he walks. He was in the ECHL last season and did relatively nothing. You really think we could have gotten anything for a marginal AHL player? Future considerations at best.

      • Carl the tooth

        Flames must have seen something in falkovsky that wasn’t gonna compute to NHL . Yes 20 goals really sticks out but it was echl. I will be keeping an eye on him in LA though .

  • Lucky 13

    Having an opportunity to watch Phillips play for the Royals, I can attest to his skill set on the ice.

    He’s not your typical small guy in that he plays big along the boards, often coming out of corners with the puck due to his ability to make smart decisions in body positioning.

    He’s another player you root for due to his infectious smile and love of the game.

    I’m looking forward to watching another season of my favourite Royal, while cheering for him to beat the odds with his diminutive stature..

    • Cfan in Van

      I watched quite a few games during his rookie season (moved to Van last year). I agree completely. On a side-note, I’m interested to see how the Royals do with the new coach.

      • Lucky 13

        Cheers!
        I’m interested to see how new Head Coach Dan Price will do this year as well. He’s never been a Head Coach in the Dub, but spent last year as Lowry’s assistant.

        I don’t imagine he’ll stray much from Lowry’s up tempo style.

        It was pretty cool seeing and talking to some of the Royals when I’d take the Ferry over to Vancouver .. nice bunch of kids

        Going to miss Dave Lowry and wish him the best in LA!

      • madjam

        You must be excited to see Petrus Palmu drafted in 6th round -181 to the Canucks . A small 5″6″ player of 172lbs.. He had last season in Ohl 98 points in 62 games (40G,58A =98points) . He also had 21 points in 17 playoff games ( 13G,8A) . Should be fun in Penticton to watch these small players like Yamamoto , Phillips and Palmu .

        • Off the wall

          Haha, The Fall is a man of few words, succinct- to the point -kinda guy. Personally, I like his style..
          Fat chance he’ll write a long blog. A brief standout will most likely be forthcoming…
          Am I right?!

      • Trevy

        Went last year as well…it was such a great experience! To have center ice tickets for $10 is mind boggling! The games are intense as the rookies want to showcase themselves, not to mention, you end up meeting so many of the players around town

          • Off the wall

            Ok now I’m jealous! Tipping a beer with Conroy and Treliving would be right up my alley..

            Does Connie ever not smile?!
            Pretty cool he gave his blessing to Hamonic to wear his jersey number.

          • The GREAT WW

            If you run into them this year, can you ask them about the Falkovski situation; And keep an eye on Conroy to see if he starts squirming in his chair…..?

            WW

          • Off the wall

            WW, although I don’t subscribe to your conspiracies, I have to admit Treliving was taken aback from the query when asked about the Falkovski situation.
            In fact was it not one of our very own blog writers who asked him? Pike?

            If Conroy gives a frown, then I guess you have your answer.

          • Kevin R

            Off The Wall, Conroy is one of the most positive guys I have ever met & hell yeah he smiles. Got to talk it up with him at one of the Flames Charity Poker events. He is a huge asset for this organization.

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          If you stand by the buses outside the arena after the games you can get flames players autographs and pictures with them. Also you can chirp oilers. One time I convinced a prospect he had been traded to the flames…..he was smiling ear to ear

  • I had the opportunity to see a lot of Philly up close this year. He tends to set up to the right of the net and when he gets the puck, he either draws the defender into him, and with the benefit of his right hand shot, is able to make a pass to a player coming into the slot. Or he’ll tuck the puck into him and try to wheel in front himself. For a guy his size, it’s not easy to knock him off the puck.

    I don’t think those kinds of plays will translate in the NHL as effectively as it does in the WHL, but you can tell he’s a smart player.

    Another reason why I think he dropped to the sixth round: he looks funny when he skates. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, and he’s lightning fast, it just looks off. I wonder if the lack of aesthetic gives scouts pause.

    Personally, I don’t care. I think he’s a steal as a sixth rounder. And crazy fun to watch. He stickhandles GOLF BALLS in the tunnel towards the ice before the game and he’s a damn wizard. The things he does with pucks is even better.

    Can’t wait

  • Squishin

    I think the fact that the Flames are investing in smaller, speedier talent is very smart, considering the change in style of NHL play over the last 10 years. I’m really pulling for this kid! I hope he gets his chance on the Flames in a few years.
    Reading between the lines (or line) of WW’s comments, I think he really likes Phillips too. He’s just a pessimist about it.

        • Squishin

          Just read it… couldn’t believe how unintelligently he writes. How is he paid to post that garbage? He sounds like a high-school student with a petty grudge.

        • Off the wall

          I took the bait and read it.

          One sour blogger in my opinion.

          Granted we haven’t developed prospects the way we should, however when you have guys like Tkachuk , Gaudreau making the club immediately it speaks more about our drafting then development.

          Here’s how Lambert finishes the piece:
          “Point is, two or three years from now, they might all look around and realize, “Oh, we could have cobbled something together here.” Instead, there seems to be a strange lack of ambition here, which is weird given the team’s previous ‘Going For It’ culture.”

          Lack of ambition? What a statement to make considering all the moves and transactions Treliving has made. This guy is out of touch and needs to take a journalism course in being objective.

          In my opinion it deserves the trash can.

        • Burnward

          Bwaaahahahahahaha!

          Him and Chris Cilliza went to the same school methinks.

          Be a contrary idiot and get publicity.

          Good on ya if you want to live your life like that. But yikes.

        • Al Rain

          One of the standbys (mainstays?) of news since news began is saying controversial stuff to get folks riled up. Arguments and debates sell. Odds are the writer doesn’t even believe what he’s saying. And then there’s the issue of that writer…

        • RedMan

          Ya, Lambert was chased out of town with torches and pitchforks, and he still hasn’t forgiven Flames fans for holding him accountable for his stupid drivel and nonsense that he tried pass here. i scanned the article and sure enough, same unsupported trolling crap that he posted regularly here. he is a joke.

          • supra steve

            Yeah, that writer even criticized the gathering of a bunch of players from the ’89 Cup winning team for a 25th anniversary reunion. What kind of a “sports writer” does that? Plus he had a big hate for Jankowski, and that dude is on the verge of becoming an NHLer. When I heard who the author was, I knew reading the article would be a big waste of time, so I skipped it.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          It’s like reading the back and forth in a divorce proceeding. The jilted ex-lover fires back at its former beau. I don’t doubt that there are a few question marks, I also think it’s bogus to suggest that our window is only 3 years of Gio’s top play. Way too many good defence prospects for this thing to shut-down all the sudden.

        • madjam

          Good article with a pertinent non bias summation . Tells it like it is . Many I am sure might not agree with his assessments , but I find them pretty accurate and well thought out .

          • TheoForever

            There is nothing that is true in this article, starting with the ages of our key players and it continues with more nonsense. This is the same guy that didn’t like as signing Gio, thought we should let Janko go, Monahan should be sent down, and hundred other stupid things that he wrote here on FN. He has an axe to grained because we took him apart, all he is looking for is clicks. You have to be some kind of stupid to take anything this guy writes as the gospel.
            As for you madjam, anything that is an attack on Flames is well though out. Your arguments about your d and prospects are a living proof of lack of any kind of objectivity on your part.

  • Just.Visiting

    Sounds like a character guy who has everything except size. I think that most of us are hoping that he continues to advance in the pros.

    Given the NHL’s desire to enhance the entertainment experience and to increase goal scoring, one of the ideas that occurs to me is to allow teams to dress one additional player.

    This would allow the teams to address an offensive player like Phillips who might not otherwise get to play. Teams could then add another dimension to their PP and OT.

    On another note, I’m enjoying the series so far and have no objections to the sequencing to date. The final seven should see some good debate about sequencing, though, which is actually a great problem to have relative to what used to be the case.

    • The GREAT WW

      We could go into lots of things; player usage, systems, motivator, doesn’t visit the guys in the room etc etc.

      But Let me ask you; would you follow this guy into battle…?

      WW

  • Off the wall

    Cup Hope, I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of your thread, so I posted below you.
    I’ve been reading FN for a long time and I don’t know that WW has ever really answered that question.

    No apologies are necessary, it’s a great question and deserves a decent answer… right WW?!

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    It is hard not to root for the kid. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t show more in the AHL playoffs but that s quite the jump in level. He seemed to have hit a lull in his last few games in the WHL playoffs…a lot of wear and tear on a 5’6″ frame. With some rest and intense training in the summer he showed well WJ showcase. He just scores goals that others can’t.

    • The Penn

      Can’t wait to see all of the young prospects here in September it’s great hockey to watch.The flames are heading in the right direction but need to allow some room for these kids to get in the show.The future is bright but the kids need to know that there is a light at the end