There was a trend throughout the three round-robin games for the Philadelphia Flyers. There was always at least one player who had a standout performance and was the difference-maker in the Flyers getting the victory. Michael Raffl shined bright offensively in the first game against the Boston Bruins, Scott Laughton had a breakout of his own against the Washington Capitals in Game 2, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel had his time to shine, playing a crucial role as Philadelphia claimed the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
For Aube-Kubel, it was a reward for all of the hard work he put in over the years. There were struggles along the way though. There was even a chance Aube-Kubel might not have been on the Flyers roster anymore. It has been a long time coming, but it looks that he is finding his place with the Flyers in the NHL.
Frustrating NHL Start
Aube-Kubel was selected by the Flyers in the 2014 NHL Draft. He spent four total seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Val-d’Or Foreurs, where he put up the following production:
- 2012-13: 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 64 games
- 2013-14: 22 goals and 31 assists for 53 points in 65 games
- 2014-15: 38 goals and 42 assists for 80 points in 61 games
- 2015-16: 38 goals and 46 assists for 84 points in 61 games
After that, he was brought into the fold for Philadelphia, starting him down in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The transition was gradual, but Aube-Kubel became a solid presence for the Phantoms during his time with the club (2016-17). He posted 18 points (nine goals and nine assists) during his first campaign with the team, suiting up for 71 contests. The following year saw statistical improvement and growth with 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 72 games.
Aube-Kubel finally got his first call to the NHL during the 2018-19 season. He played in nine games for the Flyers but was sent back to Lehigh Valley for the rest of the year. However, then-Philadelphia head coach Dave Hakstol used Aube-Kubel sparingly while he was in the lineup. He was not on the ice a lot during those nine games, which was a frustrating experience for the young man. He didn’t really get to show what he could do for the squad.
On top of this, Aube-Kubel was also on waivers before the start of the 2019-20 season. He ended up clearing, but there was a possibility his days as a Flyer were over.
Emerging in 2019-20
New coach and Jack Adams Award finalist Alain Vigneault gave Aube-Kubel a chance to see what the player could do. Aube-Kubel took the opportunity and ran with it. In 36 games during the 2019-20 regular season, he tallied seven goals and eight assists for 15 points.
Aube-Kubel has continued to grow from his NHL exposure in the round robin, and the third game against the Tampa Bay Lightning is where the stats backed up that fact. Vigneault has surrounded him with talent to help develop and bring out the best in his game. On the first goal against the Bolts, Aube-Kubel tipped a shot from defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a veteran who has played in over 300 NHL games and is close to 200 career points. Gostisbehere knew when to throw the puck in traffic, and Aube-Kubel was the beneficiary.
Veteran experience was on display for Aube-Kubel’s second goal as well, also scored in the first period of the game. He was able to steal the puck at the Tampa blue line, creating a two-on-one situation alongside longtime Flyer Sean Couturier. Aube-Kubel gave a pass over to Couturier, who passed it back to him on a nice setup play and he beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 2-0. It was a play that showcased what Aube-Kubel brings to the table.
The Flyers are now the number one seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the rest of the playoffs. They will be taking on the Montreal Canadiens, who were able to surge past the Pittsburgh Penguins in their series. The teamwork among this Philadelphia team has been impressive, and this may be the start of something special. There is a lot of hard work ahead though, and the next step is the Habs.