Smoothing out, but maybe still on the outside?
Prospect talks can get kind of overwhelming sometimes. And understandably so—the Flyers have not just a ton of prospects, but a ton with the potential for very high to respectable upside. It’s a lot to keep track of. It’s easy to feel out of sorts. Who should I be paying the most attention to? There are only so many hours in the day. I only have so much excitement to expend.
It’s a lot to parse through. but sometimes, every once in a while, the Flyers themselves give you a helping hand and tell you who to be excited about.
Enter: Nic Aube-Kubel. After a very solid season in the AHL (more on that later), he received the nod from Ron Hextall in exit interviews as a player who they were penciling in to have a longer look, come training camp. So, clearly the Flyers have honed in on some things to like about his game and its progression. And we’re here to break some of that down.
No. 20: Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Age: 22 (5/10/1996)
Size: 5’11”, 196 (via)
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft — Round 2, Pick 48
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) – 18 G, 28 A in 72 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: 24
Aube-Kubel, really by all counts, had a pretty stellar season with the Phantoms. After a rookie season that saw him only register nine goals and 18 points in 71 games, and which left us all understandably at least a little worried, he was able to right the ship for his sophomore season. In it, he more than doubled his previous season totals, racking up 18 goals and 46 points, making him one of the Phantoms’ most consistent producers, putting him fourth in goals and third in total points among his teammates. And what’s more? Per Brad, Aube-Kubel only received a handful of one-off shifts on the Phantoms’ second power play unit, so his scoring came all at 5-on-5. Which is pretty neat, if we do say so ourselves!
But it wasn’t all scoring flash for Aube-Kubel. Also per Brad (and his numbers, this time), Aube-Kubel served not just as a reliable player in both ends, but as one of the best play drivers up and down the lineup. Indeed, his +5.99 CF%Rel put him at third on the team in this metric, behind just Travis Sanheim and Mikhail Vorobyev. So, to recap, Aube-Kubel took a very nice step forward on terms of scoring, all while maintaining sound territorial play. And all of that sounds very good. He’s figured it out, right?
Well, not quite. We still have some areas where there lies cause for concern.
We talked about how in scoring and Corsi, Aube-Kubel was in the top tier of his teammates, but he has one where he’s at the top of the list? Penalty minutes!
That’s right, Over the course of the season, Aube-Kubel picked up a whopping total of 86 PIM, a full 11 more than second place TJ Brennan. That’s right, that’s more penalty minutes than he played games. That means, on average (pretending this is how these averages work), he’s putting the Phantoms on team a penalty kill in just about every other game. And, when you pair that with a couple of suspensions for illegal checks to the head, it starts to seem like we’re looking at a player with a discipline issue.
Our other concern, to circle back to scoring, is that of consistency. As we said above, he was one of the Phantoms’ most consistent scorers during the regular season—the longest he went without a point was five games. But when we hit the playoffs? He went 10 games without so much as a point. And that also brings about some unease. Sure, we can talk about a long season, or momentum just happening to dry up at the absolute worst time, or broken up by an ill-timed suspension (which is a whole thing in and of itself). Sure. But the fact remains that he came up short when he was needed most.
So, what’s left, then? What are we to take from this? Where is he going?
Perhaps the easiest thing would be to say that he may need another season in the AHL to really put all of the pieces together, despite the massive step forward he took between his first and second seasons in Lehigh Valley, and it’s looking like he’s going to get it. As it stands, Aube-Kubel seems poised with the potential to fill the role of “play-driving depth winger who can also hopefully provide some scoring” at the NHL level, and at the close of the Flyers’ season, when Hextall suggested he was one of the prospects closer to cracking the roster, there seemed a vacancy ripe for him snatch up. That changed, of course, when the Flyers signed a pure scoring winger (James van Riemsdyk, hello) on the opening day of Free Agency. So the roster constricted that much more, and Aube-Kubel found himself pushed down the depth chart.
But this hardly figures to be the end of the story—he may still make a strong push at camp, yet, and force the Flyers’ hand, but maybe not. Maybe he spends another season in the AHL smoothing out his game, working on his consistency, and maybe, just maybe, figuring out how to stop trying to scramble other dudes’ brains out there (just a thought!). Maybe that’s not the worst thing. It doesn’t change the fact that we’re still looking at a prospect with pretty clear NHL upside, or that the organization seems to remain high on him. It just stretches the timeline out a little bit more. But we’re still allowed to be excited.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25:
- Intro & Honorable Mentions
- No. 25: Noah Cates
- No. 24: Mark Friedman
- No. 23: Danick Martel
- No. 22: Matthew Strome
- No. 21: Taylor Leier