I wrote earlier this season about how Matthew Phillips was off to a good start in his second season with the Victoria Royals. When we last checked in with him, he had 11 goals and 9 assists for 20 points in 18 games. A solid start to the season for sure, but things have really taken off since then.
On Saturday, Phillips scored the overtime winner, his second goal of the game, to help the Royals clinch a playoff spot. The winner happened to be Phillips’ 46th of the season, in just 63 games. In total, he has 46 goals and 40 assists for 86 points. He has already eclipsed his totals from his rookie season in the WHL, where he notched 76 points in 72 games. With 7 games left, he has a good shot at hitting the 50 goal threshold and if he continues at the pace he has been playing at lately, he will get there.
Phillips is in the mix for finishing as the WHL’s leading goal scorer. The current leader is Tyler Wong of Lethbridge, who has 48 goals. Then, Phillips sits at 46, tied with 3 other players. It is going to be a race to the finish, but the fact that the 18-year-old Phillips is among the league leaders is something exciting for Calgary Flames fans looking to the future. Phillips does not turn 19 until April, so he will be heading back to the WHL for one more season after this year, before he likely turns pro.
Phillips had been targeted by some as a potential value pick for late in the draft 2016, as he produced well in his draft year, but since he was the smallest player in the draft (he is listed at 5’6”, 141 pounds), so he likely going to slide compared to other players with statistically inferior performances. The Calgary Flames are a team that has been willing to select small players in recent years and were rewarded with Johnny Gaudreau, while they also have another good prospect in Andrew Mangiapane. Drafted 166th overall, it was a risk that any team should be taking at that point of the draft and thankfully the Flames did. The league has been trending toward an increase in smaller players and there is no reason to think that trend will be halting anytime soon.
He is one of the most intriguing prospects in the organization. He is a high-level talent and has proved that his stature will not hold him back in the WHL. Despite being one of the most prolific scorers in the WHL, there is so much uncertainty about him. For every Johnny Gaudreau, there are many other small players who barely make an impact in the professional ranks. Even when Gaudreau was tearing up the NCAA with Boston College, there were constant questions about whether he would have any success in the NHL. It is going to be years before we see whether Phillips can be one of those players that makes it, but for now we can just follow along with his progress and cheer for the kid. He has been continually trending upward since he has appeared on the scene, hopefully he can keep rising.
Here are highlights of him scoring 3 goals and 1 assist at the Saddledome back in January.