Calgary Flames

Matthew Phillips continues to be one of the AHL’s best players to start 2022–23

Matthew Phillips is off to an absolutely superb start this season with the Calgary Wranglers—one which currently has him in sole possession of the AHL’s league lead in goals and tied for 2nd in the AHL’s scoring race.

A leader in the AHL

After Tuesday night’s game at home versus the San Jose Barracuda, Phillips extended his point streak to eight games, which he has now set as his career-longest point streak. The cherry on top to add to the current accolades? He let the hats fly on Sunday night, with a three-goal performance for his second career AHL hat trick.

Through 10 games played, Phillips has currently notched nine goals and five assists for a current total of 14 points on the year, a 1.40-point-per-game pace. The breakdown of his points includes 11 primary points and five primary points at even strength.

Below is Phillips’ player card from the 2021–22 AHL season.

Will Phillips ever get a shot with the Flames?

Matthew Phillips was the Flames’ 166th overall, sixth-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut on Game 56 of the North Division season on May 19, 2021. It was a meaningless game at home in an empty Saddledome versus the Vancouver Canucks. Since then, however, his play has only skyrocketed at the AHL level. Phillips tallied 31 goals and 37 assists for a total of 68 points through 65 games in Stockton over the course of the 2021–22 regular season and capped it off with three goals and eight points through 13 games during last spring’s Calder Cup run.

The Calgary Flames are struggling right now and the most glaring issues at the moment seem to be the club’s 5v5 save percentage which is currently ranked 27th league-wide and the club’s 5v5 shooting percentage which is currently ranked 23rd. In on-ice metrics, the Flames are a top 10 team in all of the following at even-strength per 60 minutes. Shots for, third; shots against, sixth; shot attempts for, second; shot attempts against, seventh; expected goals for, sixth; and expected goals against, seventh. All per You can make the conclusion that it hasn’t been about effort, it’s been about execution.

The Flames are simply getting adjusted to dealing with the loss of two 100-point players, a current carousel of significant injuries, and the essence of significant roster turnover, essentially rebuilding the club’s identity from the ground up. The Flames have also had the toughest schedule in terms of the quality of opponents faced, to start off the year. Poor goaltending performances, execution and finishing luck are the biggest problems right now. How could Matthew Phillips hurt that? As a matter of fact, he’d much improve the current skill gap.

Yes, Matthew Phillips weighs in at 5’8″ and 160 pounds, and in regards to the organization’s current roster construction ideology and mantra, he doesn’t seem like the most attractive call-up option. However at this stage in the game, it just feels absolutely nonsensical that he isn’t even being given a shot at getting reps with the big club. Skill should always be prioritized over size and veteran leadership, that’s just the way I view things and the way the NHL has now begun to trend. It just seems very unlikely Matthew will ever get a shot with the big club, but he absolutely deserves one. It can’t hurt.

Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers

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