The Flames have an extensive history of showcasing players with unusual career paths to the NHL. Most notably, long-time captain Mark Giordano made the big leagues despite never being drafted into the Ontario Hockey League or the NHL. More recently, the team added Derek Ryan, a centre who worked his way up through Canadian university hockey and stints in Austria and Sweden before finally becoming a very reliable two-way NHLer in his 30s.
Coming in at the 16th spot on our list is another diminutive pivot who, after going undrafted, starred at the University of Alberta and worked his way to an NHL contract. Let’s talk about Luke Philp.
How did we get here?
Philp is a 25-year-old Canmore product who starred for the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice and Red Deer Rebels over a five-season junior career before making the jump to U SPORTS in 2016. Sure, playing for the University of Alberta didn’t exactly slot Philp against the toughest competition, but he still managed to stand out enough to attract serious NHL interest. He posted 21 goals and 45 points in 2018–19, helping the Golden Bears reach the University Cup final (suffering a high-ankle sprain during the playoffs that kept him out of the decisive game) and winning the 2019 U SPORTS Player of the Year award along the way. Subsequently, the Flames inked Philp to a two-year entry-level deal in March 2019.
Making his professional debut for the Stockton Heat in 2019–20, Philp initially struggled to adjust to the higher level of competition but turned white-hot down the stretch, becoming one of the team’s strongest offensive producers and eventually finishing in a tie for the team lead in goals with 19. Philp is one of the Flames’ few right-handed prospects and he’s shown an innate ability to put the puck in the net in every league where he’s played.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
It took 11 games for Philp to score his first AHL point. Once he did, the dam broke. Philp scored his first two professional goals and added and assist against the San Diego Gulls on Remembrance Day 2019, beginning a stretch in which he scored 13 goals and 16 points in 14 games. After recording just 13 shots in his first 10 games, Philp recorded 27 over those next 14 outings.
From a production standpoint, Philp’s massive hot streak was an outlier. But he still contributed at a healthy rate even after the goals started coming less frequently in late December. From December 21 on until the abrupt end to the season, Philp scored six goals and added nine assists for 15 points in 28 games. Over the course of the season, Philp was a key weapon on the Heat’s power play, tying with Austin Czarnik for the team lead with seven goals on the man-advantage.
Still, Philp probably needs to take more shots to maintain a solid level of production: his 21.8 shooting percentage on 87 shots this year likely isn’t sustainable. That could come easily with more pro experience.
Those in the know
Here’s what Heat coach Cail MacLean had to say about Philp’s first year of professional hockey.
He definitely figured out the speed of the league and I think that he deserves a little bit of leeway in that he was coming off of that injury that he sustained at the end of his previous season that really, I think, took a lot of wind out of his sails in terms of just in his skating. You can see that sort of continue to evolve as we get into October and November and start to see him get a little quicker out of the gate. The thing with Luke that’s very impressive is his ability to be ready to make the next play. It comes through with his shooting and it comes through with his sense in terms of passing, in that he was able to get up to meet the pace of the AHL and then start to think a step ahead of the game, and that’s when a lot of pucks started to go in for him and he started to make a lot of plays. He’s got good hands and quick feet to be able to support that brain, so a real solid year for him and I expect him to continue to progress in that direction.
On the horizon
It’s hard to imagine Philp cracking the Flames’ roster to begin the 2020–21 season, particularly after the Joakim Nordstrom, Dominik Simon, and Josh Leivo signings. If one of the kids were to make the team out of camp, it’d probably be Glenn Gawdin or Matthew Phillips, not Philp. But, as a rightie with the ability to score, Philp is probably going to get the chance to play a big role for the Heat this coming year.
Alan Quine and Austin Czarnik are both gone, freeing up two spots in the team’s top-six. Gawdin, Phillips, Byron Froese, and Buddy Robinson will probably be in there, but that still leaves a couple spots and Philp will probably occupy one of them for most of the season. With Robinson and Froese both basically known quantities at this point in their respective careers, it’s possible the Flames will look at giving Philp some games ahead of them this year if injuries hit. They might want to get a read on him at the NHL level before he becomes a restricted free agent in the 2021 off-season.
Philp is a unique prospect — and a good one. Expect him to get a cup of coffee in the NHL if he keeps scoring this coming season.
FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020
|The no-votes||Missed the cut|
|#20: Tyler Parsons||#19: Alexander Yelesin|
|#18: Ryan Francis||#17: Martin Pospisil|