Matthew Phillips – Stockton Heat – AHL
When I added the profile for Matthew Phillips to DobberProspects for the first time, I watched closely many of his games for the Victoria Royals and gave my opinion as to how he could be successful at the pro level (you can read it here). After going scoreless in his first eight games this season for Stockton in the AHL, Phillips came to life. Lets look at how.
- He’s 5’7 give or take.
- He earned WHL Rookie Of The Year honors in 2015-16 with 76 points in 72 games for Victoria.
- Calgary took a chance on him in the 6th round of the 2016 draft.
- He raised his point totals to 90 in 70, and then 112 in 71 the next two years.
- This included a WHL playoff run of 19 points in 11 games; arguably single handedly trying to keep Victoria in the playoffs.
For the 2018-19 season, he turned pro and began slow slow slow slow slow. The potential was still there though. I commented in October after he played his 4th game of the year that…
” While he certainty hasn’t appeared dominant in any aspect of the game, he’s done a lot of little things correct to create offensive scoring chances. He will spend the entirety of the year in the AHL and a breakout multi-point game will come soon.“
Phillips is currently riding a 23 points in 23 games streak as a 5’7, 20 yo rookie in the AHL
This really doesn’t happen too often… so how is he doing it?
Matthew is playing RW and currently enjoying success on a line with NHL first round selections Kerby Rychel and Curtis Lazar. He lines up on the far point when on an offensive PP draw and is utilized as a playmaker on the left halfwall. He does not play on the PK.
He is very shifty. Very, very shifty.
He is often the first one to a puck and rightfully so. His acceleration is top notch and it’s hard not to notice his little legs moving as fast as they do. Short powerful strides. He needs that extra time in order to not be knocked off the puck right away.
He is also seemingly constantly moving. He is wonderful at noticing spacing in all ends of the ice in order to maximize his ability to capitalize on a loose puck.
In the defensive zone? – He’s always in solid positioning in open ice; waiting to shoot out to the point or grab a puck and start a breakout.
In the neutral zone? – He closes the gap quickly on defenders when they are trying to move the puck. He is relentless in that area.
In the offensive zone? – He can be the first guy in the zone but often doesn’t let himself get too deep chasing defenders. He lets others (Lazar, Rychel) do the heavy lifting when it comes to the deep forecheck. On a breakout, he often circles around and tries to time it so he can be a pest defensively. Once again. he’s usually in great position.
He uses hesitation and his strong lateral edging to maneuver past defenders.
Here’s an example of his elusiveness as he is entering the zone at the top of the screen.
After he cycles the puck to the point, he gets it back and uses his hesitation to create separation. Notice his crazy vision to spot the eventual goal scorer.
On the Powerplay
He needs to create space and separation. He cannot use his body to shield off players because he is knocked off too quickly. So… how does he do that? Seeing how he works on the PP gives us a glimpse into how he creates opportunities for his teammates.
Stockton seems to like him setting off on the off-side especially when on draws. If the draw is on the left, he starts on the right point. If it’s on the right, he starts on the left point. They want him to eventually have the puck on the left half-wall though.
Penalty Killing forwards go after him. They try to close the gap right away and why wouldn’t they? He uses this to his advantage. Draw them in and create a lane for teammates. Two Canucks’ twins made a whole career at this type of approach.
- He’s at the bottom of the picture. Lined up at the point. He looks tiny because he is.
2. They win the draw and it eventually works around the Phillips on the left half-wall. He has the puck at this moment.
3. The forward slides down and chases Phillips. Matthew waits until he’s created enough space for his teammates and cycles the puck back to the point. You can see him curling his stick around the opponent, sending the puck to the left point.
4. Phillips gets away unharmed (left corner). Dman fires a slap shot into traffic. Buddy Robinson tips the puck net front for a goal.
Phillips does this on and off the PP. If he cannot create space for himself, he elects to only hold onto the puck until he draws an opponent close enough to create space for others. His vision is one of his best attributes.
The one quality that pushed him over the top for me as a legit NHL prospect from his Victoria days was his fearlessness when it came to being around the net. Often times, he would get himself in deep on a play, circle around the net, and sit right on the side of the net waiting for a deflection or a rebound to jump to him.
He doesn’t like to battle really anywhere if he doesn’t have to. Especially in front of the net.
If he can sneak backdoor or cut in and out on the wing then he can avoid damage from bigger defenders.
If they don’t have great awareness then they lose him. Before they know it, he’s tapped in a rebound. He’s not going to back away from scoring areas.
He’s shifty enough to create space in the NHL. He’s fast enough to be in the NHL. He has good enough vision for the NHL. He has a good enough shot for the NHL.
It might not be this year or next year but Matthew Phillips is showing that he can be an NHL player one day.
He had 0 points in 8 games for the year…
After a solid run he improved to 9 points in 22 games.
23 points in 31 games for the 2018-19 season.
That is 23 points in 23 games.
That is 14 points in his last 9 games.
In fact… that’s 10 points in his last 4 games including 3 different 3-point nights.
Let me remind you again. He’s 20. He’s a rookie. He’s 5’7.
Pick him up in your fantasy league and ride the ride.
Joel Henderson @dathockeydoe on twitter