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Nicolas Aube-Kubel emerging as effective bottom-six winger for Flyers

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NAK really has a knack for playing in the bottom six.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nicolas Aube-Kubel is emerging as an effective winger for the Philadelphia Flyers. The rookie forward was called up in the middle of December after a solid start with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. We’re starting to see his strong play at the AHL level translate to the NHL game.

Aube-Kubel is a gritty player with the work ethic to thrive in the bottom-six and on the fourth line, but he has offensive skill as well. We’re seeing that a bit recently with the Flyers, but his offensive skill was never in doubt.

He put up 53 points in 65 games in his draft year, earning him a second-round selection (48th overall) by the Flyers. He then broke out in a big way in the following two seasons with 38 goals and 80-plus points in 61 games in each of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

The QMJHL is a high-scoring league, but those are still some impressive numbers with 76 goals in 122 games. For reference, NAK had a similar goal total (38) in the 2014-15 season as fellow NHL-ers Timo Meier (44), Nikolaj Ehlers (37) and Connor Garland (35).

It took him a few years to fully adjust to the professional level, but he scored 34 goals in 116 games with the Phantoms between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. This season he started off strong with five points (four goals) in a six-game span in October to November, and then picked it back up in late November and December to help earn his promotion to the Flyers.

Looking deeper into the numbers per PhancyStats, Aube-Kubel had a Corsi-For of 50% or higher in three of four December games – and scored in the fourth – before getting called up. He also had multiple scoring chances (totalling 13) in five straight games.

Aube-Kubel was a play driver with the Phantoms with a 54.04% CF (+3.02 CF% Relative) this season and that has been translating well to the NHL level.

NAK started off strong with the Flyers, with a point in his season debut and three points in his first five games. He then hit a bit of a wall, however, with just one point in his next 12 games before the break.

Since the All-Star Break, Aube-Kubel has taken his game up a notch. He has been noticeable in every game and the numbers show that as well. His Corsi-For has been 50% or higher in six of seven games, with the outlier being the win against Colorado.

NAK came out of the break flying with a season-high seven hits in Pittsburgh. He added four more hits the next night against the Avalanche as well, so even though his possession game may have been lacking, he made sure to stay engaged in the game. He has compiled 19 hits and four takeaways in seven games since the break.

The bottom-six winger is producing offensively as well. Aube-Kubel has 13 shot attempts in the seven games since the break. Eight of those have been scoring chances, including two high-danger chances.

On the score sheet he picked up a nice assist in the game in Pittsburgh and then a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in Washington.

That game in Washington truly showcased his full skillset. He sniped a goal, added an assist with a great pass after picking up a turnover in the neutral zone, and showed his physicality with the fight.

Aube-Kubel spent a lot of his time after being called up with Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk, and he didn’t look out of place. He has the potential to play in the middle-six as a feisty winger, but he has truly found his place on the fourth line with Michael Raffl and Connor Bunnaman.

In nearly 62 minutes with Raffl at 5-on-5 play, the duo has a 70.91 CF% and 72.06 xGF%. They’re definitely playing against lesser opponents as the fourth line and getting few defensive zone starts, but those stats are impressive nonetheless.

Aube-Kubel is always one of the fastest and hardest-working players on the ice. Those two things make for a lethal combination for any player. If you add in NAK’s offensive skills, he has the potential to stick in the NHL and work his way up the lineup with the Flyers.

The Flyers have had some trouble finding effective bottom-six wingers in recent years, and even somewhat this season with a carousel of call-ups. Aube-Kubel has put an end to that due to his high-energy play.