Would you look at that! We’re still out here talking about Phantoms on the Top 25 Under 25 list. Yesterday it was Mikhail Vorobyev, and today we’re moving on up in the lineup to Nicolas Aube-Kubel! He’s just completed his third season with the Phantoms, and while in some ways this was a messy one for him, it still may be that he’s taken his necessary steps forward, and knocking on the door for a full time NHL job. Let’s talk about it.
No. 14: Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Age: 23 (5/10/1996)
Size: 5’11”, 180
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft — Round 2, Pick 48
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) - 16 G, 14 A in 54 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 16
Looking just at Aube-Kubel’s raw scoring numbers, we might feel inclined to say “wow, he really didn’t have a very good season,” as 30 points is a step back from last season’s total of 46, but in this case, context is important to take into consideration. Aube-Kubel scored 18 goals and 46 points in 72 games the previous season, but this season he only played 54 games with the Phantoms. That said, he was on pace to score a hair over 21 goals and 40 points, which would have beat his career best in goals, but fallen short of last season’s mark in total points. But we can’t even really get too worked up about that—scoring for the Phantoms as a whole was down 7.69 percent from last season, and a 40 points in 72 games pace would have been down 8.33 percent, so just about par for the course.
All of this is just to say that it is something that he wasn’t quite able to replicate the success he found in his sophomore season, but team effects do come into play here, and if you add that to the couple of injuries Aube-Kubel sustained last season, and the recall to the Flyers, and the re-acclimation time that’s often needed when coming back from those, you understand why his points totals ended looking the way they do.
Aube-Kubel’s advanced stat line, we should note, was undeniably impressive. He put up a 51.18 CF% in his 33 games tracked, one of only two Phantoms to break the 50 percent mark last season, per Brad’s manually tracked data. Additionally, per my manually tracked transition data, in his first eight games with the Phantoms before his recall to the Flyers, Aube-Kubel controlled 23 of his 41 entries into the offensive zone (56.1 percent), that is, skated the puck in, and eight of his dump ins/passes in were recovered, meaning that when Aube-Kubel was tasked with getting his line the entry, the Phantoms ended up with possession 75.61 percent of the time.
It may have been something of an underwhelming season for the team as a whole, but we can still feel pretty good about Aube-Kubel’s individual efforts, even if it was a down year in terms of points. He provided a bit of consistency, and took that step towards looking like he was dominating this league.
And then there was the NHL debut! That did indeed happen! He played nine games with the Flyers last fall, and didn’t really do a whole lot, as he was held pointless across those nine games. We understand how that happened, too, as he was averaging under six minutes a night during that time, and it’s hard to score goals in that little time. But he did still show a bit of spark, making sure he was engaged in play in his limited minutes.
We didn’t get a chance to make any big observations on Aube-Kubel, based on those extremely limited minutes that he was getting, but the one thing he did seem to prove was that he could hang at the NHL level, and that was the first thing we needed to see from him. That was the first affirmation that we needed.
And in terms of his future with the Flyers, we may well be seeing it sooner rather than later. We’re staring down training camp, and there’s still that spot open on the third line right wing, and, well, would you look at that, Aube-Kubel plays right wing.
It seems that we haven’t really been talking much about him as a contender for this spot, but really, we should be. Physically, he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL level full time. He’s physical enough to be able to play a grind it out sort of game, when tasked with it, but also skilled enough to be able to contribute some offense as well. As we broke down in the season recap, he’s proved a strong possession player, and showed hints of being able to translate that to the NHL level (a 55.26 CF% in those nine games played). And, for the first time, he would require waivers to be assigned to the Phantoms after training camp. Could they sneak him through if they really wanted to? There’s a chance, but he seems like the type of player a team might take a shot on, and it feels more likely that the Flyers opt to keep him with the big club, in some capacity. So why not the 3RW spot?
Would this be the sexy move? No. Because we all seem to have gotten a bit caught up with our shiny new toys, and gotten a bit of tunnel vision with them and the 3RW opening. And that’s okay! But it bears remembering that Aube-Kubel was once that, too, but he’s paid his dues and gotten his AHL seasoning and done all of the things to get himself NHL ready. He’s worked his ass off (his words, not mine), and he’s ready. And he might not be the shiny new toy anymore, but he’s primed to be able to contribute to the team in a meaningful way, so long as he’s given the chance.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: