Nicolas Aube-Kubel Will Be a “Hit” With the Maple Leafs

Recently we wrote about where we thought Calle Jarnkrok would fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Today we want to take a look at where Nicolas Aube-Kubel might fit.

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The Maple Leafs signed Aube-Kubel to a one-year $1 million contract on Day 1 of Free Agency. Although he had a number of offers, he chose the “hated” (he grew up in Quebec and that’s Montreal Canadiens’ country) Maple Leafs because he thought they might give him the best chance to win another Stanley Cup.

Aube-Kubel’s NHL Career Thus Far

Aube-Kubel was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers with the 48th overall pick in round-two of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The now 26-year-old Aube-Kubel had played 102 regular season games and 13 playoff games with the Flyers over four seasons before being placed on waivers last season. 

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Colorado Avalanche
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, when he was with the Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Aube-Kubel was then claimed off of waivers by the Colorado Avalanche. With the Avalanche, he went on to play 67 regular-season games and 14 playoff games. As Maple Leafs’ fans know well, the Avalanche beat the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup Champions in 2022. The team they beat had eliminated the Maple Leafs in round one of the playoffs. 

Aube-Kubel Isn’t Much for Scoring, But He’s a Tenacious Defender

Aube-Kubel has not scored a lot in his 196 games played in the NHL. In those regular-season games he’s scored 21 goals and added 29 assists (for 50 points). He’s also added two more goals and three points in total during the postseason playoffs. His regular season scoring pace puts him at 10 goals and 24 points per 82 games played.

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Although Aube-Kubel is not very tall at 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, he’s a solid player and very tenacious. The one thing he brings to his game is toughness and physicality. Aube-Kubel is not afraid to hit. Over the course of his career, he has 467 hits. In his last three seasons, he has averaged 166 hits per 82 games played. 

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Aube-Kubel has not been shy about dropping his gloves either. In his professional career (AHL and NHL), according to the website Hockeyfights.com Aube-Kubel has had ten fights. 

As we might expect with a player who plays the type of game Aube-Kubel plays, he has had “bad penalty” issues throughout his career. He was suspended three times for hits to the head in the AHL. That included a three-game suspension in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs.

While he has never been suspended in the NHL, Aube-Kubel has been fined twice. Once he was fined for a knee-on-knee hit on the Florida Panther’s Mason Marchment and once for high-sticking Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. {But then, Auston Matthews has also been suspended for getting after (cross-checking) Dahlin – so, what’s that tell Maple Leafs’ fans?}

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Aube-Kubel has the distinction of taking both T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals out in the same game. The injury to Wilson was ruled an accidental knee-on-knee and Oshie suffered an ankle injury when the two of them got tangled up in the corner. 

What Can Maple Leafs’ Fans Expect from Aube-Kubel?

This does not appear to be one of Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas’ “diamond in the rough” signings; but, with Dubas, you never know. Aube-Kubel has never played higher than the fourth line, and we don’t expect him to play any higher than the fourth line with the Maple Leafs. 

Could Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe give him a shot on the second line? Probably not, but it wouldn’t totally surprise us either to add a speedy banger and puck digger to that line.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Philadelphia Flyers
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Overall however the fourth line would seem to be the best fit for Aube-Kubel. We even wonder if he might be a replacement for the mostly recent ineffective play of Wayne Simmonds. 

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The one thing we know for sure is that wherever Aube-Kubel plays in the lineup, the opposition players will definitely have to keep their heads up. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]