2015-16 Team: Victoria Royals (#10)
Date of Birth: April 6, 1998
Place of Birth: Calgary, AB
Ht: 5’6″ Wt: 140 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 first-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 66th (June)
- THW Alternate: unranked (June)
- THW War Room: unranked (May)
- Future Considerations: unranked (June)
- ISS: unranked (June)
- Bob McKenzie: unranked (June)
- Craig Button: 33rd (June)
Matthew Phillips is not a big player. In fact, calling him tiny would not be unfair or a stretch of the definition. Listed as 5’6″ and 140 pounds by both the Victoria Royals and the Western Hockey League, size isn’t something he has in spades. But what Phillips lacks in size, he makes up for in offensive ability.
A Calgary product, Phillips was a high draft pick in the WHL’s Bantam Draft – despite his size – because he was a very productive bantam player. He doubled his offensive production from his first bantam season to his second. After he made the jump to midget he did the same thing, doubling his first-year production in his second season. In his first season in the WHL in 2015-16, he made a really great first impression by putting up 76 points in 72 games. Playing against predominantly bigger, more experienced players, he never missed a game and he out-scored all but 18 WHL players. He tied for the league-lead in game-winning goals and was second in power-play goals.
In short? The kid can flat-out play.
Phillips’ scoring prowess follows a familiar pattern for smaller, skilled junior players. He’s really dependent on the time and space afforded to him on the power-play to wheel and dead offensively, and he’s equally adept at passing or driving the net himself. Presumably his second-year adaptation, as it was in bantam and midget, will see him figure out how to decimate opposition defenses at even-strength. He’s shown fairly good consistency as a rookie, with just one lengthy pointless streak counterbalanced by several lengthy scoring streaks.
Phillips isn’t big. But some team is going to snap him up in the middle of the draft and set him up with a workout and nutrition plan. He might bulk up a bit. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll still be immensely talented with the puck.
NHL Draft Projection:
Phillips could be selected anywhere between the third and sixth round, depending on if a club falls in love with his attributes (and can ignore his lack of size).
“Phillips is a tiny, but intelligent playmaker with elite offensive capability. He processes the speed of the game very well and operates well when in motion. He is a quick, shifty skater who brings agility, acceleration and the power to escape a check in a blink.”
– Future Considerations
- Strong on-ice vision and hockey sense.
- Effective puck distributor, particularly on the power-play.
- Accurate shot.
- Good mobility.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Needs to bulk up. And if possible, get a bit taller.
- Needs to speed up his offensive decision-making.
- Could work on his play away from the puck.
If everything goes right in his development, Phillips has the skill to be Tyler Johnson. A safer projection is probably Paul Byron; a toolsy, skilled smaller forward.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offense 8.5/10, Defense 8/10
Phillips was named WHL Rookie of the Year for this past season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.