An exciting day for hockey fans: the World Junior Summer Showcase. And for Calgary Flames fans, their future looks bright with Matthew Phillips.
Could it be another Johnny Gaudreau? A small player, who’s been underrated practically his whole life because of his size, and who was taken in a later round, is starting to make waves? Sounds like Johnny Hockey to me! Calgary Flames fans HAVE to be excited for the team’s future when there are players like Matthew Phillips as prospects.
Calgary Flames prospect Matthew Phillips wasn’t taken until the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Level Draft. Even though he put up some quite respectable numbers the season before with the Victoria Royals of the WHL – 37 goals and 76 points in 72 games. Similar to how Johnny Gaudreau put up a good amount of points in the season before he was drafted, but wasn’t taken until the fourth round. Their small statures could be big factors for that.
And of course, this isn’t the first time he’s been compared to Gaudreau. But being from Calgary, that’s something to be excited about.
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"It’s pretty cool. I’m a smaller player … I could be a goalie and I might get compared to Johnny Gaudreau. It’s cool to kind of be compared. Being a smaller player, you need to play at a faster pace. If that’s exciting to watch, then that’s great. It’s something that is pretty cool. Getting mentioned with him is pretty special. He’s a guy that I’ve watched a lot and looked up to and tried to model parts of my game after him.It’s pretty cool for sure."
Not only does Phillips think it’s pretty cool, but Gaudreau himself too. Only playing three full seasons in the NHL and people already look up to you? That’s got to be a nice feeling.
"It’s a little strange at times when I think about it. I’ve only been in the League for a few years now. It’s cool to think someone is looking up to me, but when you look at his backstory … being a smaller guy … I might have even been bigger than him when I was drafted. We’re pretty similar.I can relate to him pretty well because there were guys playing in the NHL when I was drafted that were only in the League for two or three years that I was looking up to too."
But being underestimated isn’t going to slow down this guy. Just this past season, he posted 50 goals and 90 points in 70 games with the Royals. That put him at tenth overall among all skaters for points and was tied for third place in goals with 50. First place? 51 goals.
After his season ended with the Royals, he got a chance with the pros playing in one regular season game with the Calgary Flames farm team, the Stockton Heat, where he had one assist. He also got a taste of some professional playoffs where he played in two playoff games with the Heat, but didn’t find his name on the scoresheet in that case.
Via Calgary Sun:
"Getting the chance to experience pro hockey for a month was incredible. I got to see a playoff push and a playoff series. Not every guy at (Hockey Canada’s junior) camp has had the opportunity to do, is to go play pro so it was awesome."
But lately, he’s been making headlines again.
The World Junior Summer Showcase was just underway and the Calgary Flames had six prospects there. Matthew Phillips being one of them. He net three goals in as many games, averaging a goal a game. He also impressed NHL scouts. They ranked the top ten players who impressed at the WJSS, and while he didn’t make that top ten list cut, he was still an honorable mention.
Phillips didn’t even get an invite to participate until there were several injuries to other Canadian players who couldn’t participate. Looks like Phillips gets the last laugh about that now.
Via Calgary Sun:
"The scoring is one thing but, coming here, pretty much every guy has the ability to score. I think I was just trying to play well, regardless of where I was on the ice and trying to work my hardest.I was lucky enough to get on the board a couple of times.[…]I’m just trying to stay focused . . . hopefully I’ve made a pretty decent impression and that’s all I’m doing is trying to work hard and hopefully get a chance to come back."
I’d say he’s been making some decent impressions thus far. But he’ll definitely have to change his number from #12.