2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings: #6 Matthew Phillips

Coming in at the #6 spot in the 2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings is AHL First Team All-Star and Calgary Wranglers leading scorer Matthew Phillips. The 2016 sixth-round pick had another monster year in the AHL, but as a Group 6 unrestricted free agent this summer, his future in Calgary is currently in doubt.

Phillip’s development so far

Phillips was the Flames sixth-round selection back in 2016, and recently turned 25 back in April. At this point in his career, he’s likely in his final summer of being considered a prospect. It’s now or never for Phillips at the NHL level.

Phillips was selected out of the WHL after a 76-point season for the Victoria Royals in his D+0 season, where he earned WHL Rookie of the Year honours. He would follow that up by jumping to 90 points in 70 games in his D+1 year which led the Royals in scoring. He would then post 112 points in 71 games in his D+2 season to lead the Royals in scoring and finish fifth in the WHL for points and goals.

After his massive season in the WHL, Phillips would make the jump to pro hockey in 2018–19 with the Stockton Heat where he would produce 38 points in 65 game as a 20-year-old rookie. The following season he would see a huge bump in production, nearing a point-per-game pace with 33 points in 38 games.

In 2020–21 Phillips would register 21 points in 30 AHL games. He’d also finally make his NHL debut for the Flames at 23 years old, suiting up for one game. 2021–22 is really where Phillips started to show his offensive promise though. He’d finish the season with 68 points in 65 games to lead the Heat in scoring and help lead them to the Calder Cup semi finals.

This most recent season, Phillips continued his dominant play in the AHL, posting a Wranglers-leading 76 points in 66 games to help guide the team to the best record in the AHL. His 36 goals ranked second in the AHL while his 76 points ranked fifth. His remarkable season also earned him AHL First All-Star Team honours.

Phillips was called up to the Flames in December but only suited up for two games and played a combined 18 minutes before being sent back to the Wranglers soon after. All in all, he was never really given a fair chance by the coaching staff in Calgary this season and it’s one of the reasons he may look elsewhere come free agency.

Phillips’ strengths and weaknesses

Phillips strengths are quite clear. He’s a dynamic offensive player. If you want to have success at any level with Phillips’ size, you’ve got to have high-end offensive talent and Phillips has just that. There’s a reason he’s been one of the AHL’s top scorers the past two seasons.

He’s got some very impressive speed in his game that he uses to weave in and out of traffic. He could perhaps best be described as an elusive player, which is pretty common for a player his size. Think Johnny Gaudreau Lite.

Phillips is great at setting up his teammates and creating scoring chances for his team. He’s the type of player you love to play with. Below is a great example of his ability to find his teammates on the ice. The reaction from Pelletier says it all.

He’s not just a pure playmaker though, as he also possesses an impressive scoring touch. He was a 50-goal scorer in the WHL and he’s posted at least 30 goals in the AHL in back-to-back seasons. This most recent season, he finished second in the entire league for goals.

Below are some clips of his underrated shot that is a major strength in his game.

Lastly he’s just flat out skilled. He possesses the high-end creativity and skill that the Flames were desperately lacking last season, particularly in their bottom-six. His hands and overall skill level are nearly unmatched at the AHL level.

As well, despite his size—he stands at just 5’8″ and around 165 pounds—he never shies away from the physical aspects of the game. He’s always right in the middle of everything and constantly battling for the puck. His compete level is very impressive.

Case in point, here he is holding his own against the 6’4″, 238 pound Arber Xhekaj during one of his only NHL games this past season.

Just like his strengths, his weaknesses are very clear. He’s incredibly small. Players his size are becoming more common in today’s NHL, but it still presents a huge challenge in becoming a full-time NHLer. While Phillips has shown he can still dominate at the AHL level, there’s still plenty of question marks surrounding his ability to be an effective player in the NHL where players are even bigger and stronger.

At this point there’s only one way to tell if Phillips can overcome his size, and that’s to give him NHL minutes. Perhaps he won’t be able to overcome his small stature at the next level and caps out as a very good AHL player, but we don’t know that until he’s given a real shot.

Phillips’ next steps

Phillips’ next steps are crystal clear. At the age of 25, the NHL is the obvious next step for him in 2023–24. He has nothing left to prove in the AHL and frankly should’ve been in the NHL last season. At this point in his career he deserves a full-time spot in the NHL to see what he can do. Whether or not that comes with the Flames is still up in the air.

With Darryl Sutter now out of the picture and Craig Conroy on board for building a younger roster, it looks like there’s finally an opportunity in Calgary for Phillips. The problem is he’s now an unrestricted free agent and for the first time in his career can pick where he wants to play.

Wherever Phillips decides to sign, it’ll be for a team that has guaranteed him an NHL spot come October. We’ll just have to hope he’s willing to give the Flames one more shot. If he does sign in Calgary, I’d expect to see him on the opening night roster.

Calgary Flames 2023 Top 10 Prospects

Honourable Mentions | #10 Arseni Sergeev | #9 Lucas Ciona | #8 Parker Bell | #7 Walker Duehr | #6 Matthew Phillips | #5 Jeremie Poirier | #4 Connor Zary | #3 Jakob Pelletier | #2 Matt Coronato | #1 Dustin Wolf

Back to top button