With their second pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Although not especially big (5’11”, 196lbs), Aube-Kubel is not a tiny player either. The right-handed winger has played the right wing for the Val D’Ors Foreurs for the past three seasons and figures to suit up for them for the final time next season.
In the season leading up to the 2014 Draft, Aube-Kubel was overshadowed by the leading scorer in the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha. Aube-Kubel recorded 53 points (22G, 31A) in 65 games while Mantha, also a right winger, earned 120 points (57G, 63A) in 57 games. Mantha was ahead of Aube-Kubel on the depth chart and took a lot of ice time away from him. Last year, with more ice time and more responsibility, Aube-Kubel had a great season.
Last Year In Review
Aube-Kubel finished the 2014-2015 season with 80 points (38G, 42A) in 61 games. He once again played right wing and was the top right winger on the Val D’Or depth chart for most of the season.
Aube-Kubel started the season well, earning 14 points (7G, 7A) in his first 13 games. Then the month of November hit. November was a rough month for Aube-Kubel. He missed a few games from a knee-on-knee collision and struggled to find his rhythm again.
However, from December 1st until the end of the season Aube-Kubel recorded 60 points (29G, 31A) in his final 38 games of the season. Therefore, he finished the season at a 1.58 point per game pace which prorates to well over a 100 point season.
Goals For 2015-16
With that background in mind, here are a few things to watch for in 2015-2016 regarding Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
First, Aube-Kubel needs to continue to increase his point production. In each of his three QMJHL seasons Aube-Kubel has significantly improved his scoring. Obviously, there is more to hockey than putting up points, but as a player who will be 19-20 years old in juniors, Aube-Kubel must prove that he is able to dominate.
Second, Aube-Kubel should be able to make a decent push for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. In Craig Button’s latest projection of the Team Canada, Aube-Kubel is left off the team. He is, however, one of the first alternates. If he starts the 2015-2016 season the way he finished last season, he will be hard to send home. Also, Aube-Kubel could really be helped by players like Lawson Crouse, Jake Virtanen, Michael Dal Colle, and Dylan Strome. If a couple of those players are able to make the NHL out of training camp, it could open up a roster spot for Aube-Kubel.
Finally, it would be nice to see Aube-Kubel contribute if and when he spends some time (at the end of the season) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. As previewed here and here, the Phantoms look to be set up to make the Calder Cup playoffs and potentially lengthy make a playoff run. This past season, the Val D’Or Foreurs season finished their season by losing in the league semifinals, on April 29th. The Calder Cup playoffs began only a few days earlier, on April 22nd. Therefore, even if Val D’Or is one of the best teams in the QMJHL, as long as the Phantoms make the playoffs there is a good chance that we will be able to see Aube-Kubel in a Phantoms jersey at the end of the season. Hopefully he would be able to join that team as a contributor, not as a role player and/or bottom-six forward.
Left Wing and The Gauthier Factor
During the World Junior Summer Showcase, Aube-Kubel lined up for much of two games on the left wing. His linemates included fellow Flyers draftee Travis Konecny and his current teammate, 2016 draft eligible Julien Gauthier. Through two games at left wing during the Showcase, Aube-Kubel earned three assists and looked to fit in nicely.
If Aube-Kubel is able to play left wing, that would dramatically help his stock within the Flyers prospect pool. Right now, as left wing prospects go, the only guy who seems to have top six promise is Swedish prospect Oskar Lindblom. After Lindblom, the only left wing prospects who seem to have a shot at the NHL are Taylor Leier and Radel Fazleev (who also plays center). At the NHL level, the Flyers are not exceptionally deep at left wing either.
The right side is a different story for the organization. The Flyers have Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds locked up for the foreseeable future. Brayden Schenn has shown that he can be effective at right wing, and if Sam Gagner does not play his natural center position this season, he will likely start on the right side. In terms of prospects, Aube-Kubel is now playing second fiddle to Travis Konecny. He also has prospects with high-end upside like David Kase and Cooper Marody breathing down his neck.
Switching over to left wing would also help Aube-Kubel’s junior team, Val D’Or. The team looks to have little depth at left wing heading into next season. At right wing, however, they have a projected first round talent in Julien Gauthier. Gauthier, a 6’4″, 221lbs right winger had 73 points (38G, 35A) in 68b games last season. Instead of having to compete for playing time and a spot on the top line, it would be helpful for the Foreurs to be able to roll out a line with both Aube-Kubel and Gauthier.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a great pick at the 48th overall spot in the 2014 Draft. He will probably not be NHL ready next season, but if he is able to continue to put up big points, make a push for Team Canada, and make splash with the Phantoms at the end of the season, Aube-Kubel could be ready to take a roster spot in 2016-17.