In Need of Spark, Can Flames Ignore Phillips as AHL Player of Week?
Is injury to a forward or two the only way the Calgary Flames will entertain bringing a hot AHL player up to spark the offence?
The Calgary Flames need a spark. That isn't up for debate.
What's being hotly discussed in the electronic world and around the water cooler for those who still have them, is where it's going to come from.
Lines at Monday morning's practice suggest that the team is looking for more from what they've already got on the roster.
Jonathan Huberdeau was reunited with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. The DNA line of Dillon Dube, Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane remains intact after a relatively brief trial separation. Adam Ruzicka joins Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman with the hope he can have more good games than bad and bring his scoring touch to the third line.
The fourth line, well, there's not much appeal in inserting one of the top scorers from the American Hockey League alongside Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis or Brett Ritchie. So unless Dube is dropped again, that internet community clamour for an injection of youth from the farm doesn't seem like it's going to happen. Considering Dube scored in back-to-back games on the road trip and that those two goals were two more than Mangiapane and Lindholm, it seems unlikely he'll be centring the fourth line again for at least the next game or two.
Meanwhile on Monday, Calgary Wranglers forward Matthew Phillips was named as the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week.
With three goals and six assists for nine points in four games last week, Phillips moved to the top of the AHL scoring leaderboard. Impressive, right?
Phillips had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 5-3 win over Coachella Valley Firebirds. He had an assist in Thursday’s rematch. Starting the weekend on fire, Phillips scored twice and added a helper in a 5-1 win over the Abbotsford Canucks. To cap it all off, Phillips piled up three assists in the Wranglers’ 4-3 overtime win over the Canucks on Sunday afternoon.
He's got 12 points in his last six games and leads the AHL with 13 goals and 26 points in 18 games so far this season.
The biggest knock on the 24-year-old prospect is his stature.
Listed at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, Phillips was passed up by every NHL team when he was waived for reassignment after training camp. But in his fifth pro season, and just one NHL game to his credit, Phillips is doing everything that could possibly be asked of him in the minors. He plays a pretty physical game at that level, too, considering his lack of size. And the heart seems immeasurable.
But he'll have to be patient on top of productive given the franchise's philosophic approach to prospects. It's hard to imagine him not adding to his NHL credentials at some point this season. Despite the outside pleas for an opportunity for Phillips and/or Wranglers teammates like Jakob Pelletier, it looks like it could take an injury up front for a spot to open up.