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Photo Credit: courtesy Calgary Flames/NHL Media

Matthew Phillips is focused on making the NHL

Moments after I finished interviewing Calgary Flames prospect Matthew Phillips at development camp, a fan sheepishly walked up to me and asked who I was chatting with. I related that it was Phillips, and the fan replied “He’s really small.”

It’s nothing new to Phillips, who was the smallest player listed at development camp and has been the tiniest player on his team (and often in his league) since he began playing high level hockey. Listed by the American Hockey League as five-foot-seven and 155 pounds, Phillips had to establish himself in a brand-new league as a 20-year-old.

“A big growing season,” said Phillips. “Took kind of awhile to adjust at the start. It’s just a lot different, the pace is a lot higher, plays happen a lot faster. But I think once I got the hang of it I caught on pretty quick and I started to play my game and feel pretty comfortable, and I feel pretty good about the second half of the year.”

Phillips didn’t produce all that much in the first third of the season, with nine points in his first 20 games. The remainder of the season saw him put up 29 points in the remaining 45 games and get increasingly more responsibilities on the team.

“We had a lot of really good forwards,” said Phillips. “We had maybe 10, 11 forwards that could play top six. I definitely had to work my way up the lineup, and that’s a good thing for your rookie season, you have to earn it. I think it kinda came along. First 20-or-so games it just kinda wasn’t working but the effort was there, and it kinda clicked near the end.”

After a first pro season that was defined by a lot of changes, Phillips is focused on preparing the best he can for his sophomore season. Now that he has some experience under his belt, he’s approaching the off-season looking to prepare himself to push for NHL time.

“I think my mindset changes a lot this summer,” said Phillips. “Last year, a lot of uncertainty and ‘what it’s going to be like?’ and stuff but now I know. And now I have my goals on the NHL, and if I end up on Stockton I want to push the pace and be the best player every day. That’s where my head’s at. If it takes a little longer that’s okay, but my goal is making the NHL.”

Phillips isn’t a big man, but he’s an observant one. He’s aware that the Flames have lost a regular forward in Garnet Hathaway, but he’s not letting the business side of things impact his approach to the coming season. He’s focused on improving where he can and being the best player he can be.

“I feel like we had a lot of guys go up and down this year,” said Phillips. “And you see that if you work hard and you play as well as you can, you’re going to get the recognition eventually. If it takes this year, if I get the chance this year, next year or whatever it is, I just have to focus on myself.”

  • How's She Goin'

    Phillips should get lots of ice time and opportunity in Stockton this year to build on a solid rookie season. I expect he will perform well and earn a call up much like Mangiapane last year.

  • freethe flames

    Phillips was good at development camp but he did not shine as much as one might have wished. Personally I won’t be surprised if he outshines Czarnik in the preseason but even if he does it is likely he starts the season in Stockton and depending on how the season goes gets a few call ups like Mangiapane from 2 years ago. This year for the first time in a long time there are several RHS fighting for look see; let’s see how they all develop.

    • everton fc

      I think you may be right, about Phillips “besting” Czarnik in preseason. I think Phillips can play at pace, in the NHL. Time will tell, soon enough.

  • Stockton's Finest

    With this attitude from Phillips, I expect a 50 point season out of him this season. He and Gawdin built some nice chemistry last season, so expecting those two to play top 6 minutes with whomever (Tuulola?) and also some PP minutes.

    • freethe flames

      I doubt the Flames will have all their RHS on one line. But I do expect Phillips to shine in the AHL this year. Gawdin looked pretty average at development camp. I’m hoping another year of playing against men in Europe will have prepared ET for the AHL. Upfront with these 3, Ruzica, Pospisil and the vets you guys should be fun to watch. The question is how well do they stock the D cupboards.

  • Off the wall

    It’s no secret that I love Matthew Phillips.
    He’s been dubbed, “Bubba, Baby face assassin”, but I still like my nickname name for him… the “Smurf”.

    Give em’ hell Smurf!

      • Albertabeef

        It will be interesting to see what happens. ET is a wildcard. He has NA experience already. He’s listed under hockeyDB as 6’3″ and 225. We haven’t seen him play in 2 years so he remains a huge question mark.

        • freethe flames

          He had one year in the WHL and then back home where he has played against men. I still think he needs some time to readjust to NA ice. Last year at development he was fine but nothing special. He is as you say a wildcard. Here’s hoping he makes it.

          • Albertabeef

            One year is better than none for experience. At least he knows what to expect. Two years of playing against men has hopefully helped his development. I just think his size might give him an edge over Phillips on the depth chart. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out come September.

    • Off the wall

      That’s a BIG ask. To me, he’s more of a Byron type player, having watched him with the Royals. He is better (in my opinion) at passing than Byron, but has the speed and hands to be in the top 6 in the NHL.

      I’m biased of course, but confident that Phillips will make it.

      • Albertabeef

        I think Matty is better all round than Byron. Mangiapane-Ryan-Phillips could be the best little line in the league. They all play a similar type of game.

  • Mattimvs

    “…has been the tiniest player on his team (and often in his league) since he began playing high level hockey. ”

    (Semantics) For most of his WHL career, he skated with Dante Hannoun who is even smaller (5’6″).

  • Albertabeef

    Does anybody besides me get frustrated with the Flames home site? The prospect list still shows former players. I get Lazar just let the Franchise but Klimchuck was gone last September and he’s still on the list. How do we expect the guys to run a hockey club when they can’t even operate a web site accurately.

      • Albertabeef

        I believe the guys who own the team pay people to keep their site up to date. AFter all they have a whole bunch of people working in their media and communications departments. But like any company with an out of date crappy website, it reflects poorly on the parent company. Would you book flights and vacations based on 1960’s info? See pictures of gross 1970’s wallpaper make you want to book a hotel room there? Most people would stay away from a company like that. But I was just curious if it frustrated anyone else but me.