IT’S THE TOP 10 FOLKS
Yes, we are reaching the home stretch of our Top 25 Under 25, as every player we talk about from here on is someone that’s spent some sort of time with the big club in the NHL. We also today reach the two centers from the 2017 draft, though you may be surprised what order they’re in. Or maybe you won’t. I dunno.
10. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Primary Team/League: Philadelphia, NHL
2019-20 Stats: 7 G, 8 A in 36 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 14
Drew (ranked him #10): NAK has really surprised me this year. He’s gone from a doubted AHLer to a solid NHL contributor in mere months. I love what NAK brings to the table in the bottom six with his incessant forechecking and physicality. He’s truly an example of what we can hope for out of some of the more lower ranked players on the 25u25. Sure we all think that Morgan Frost will be a 1C playmaker, but other guys will need to adapt their play to be contributors in the manner Aube-Kubel has.
Mike (ranked him #13): Big bump in the rankings after a strong showing with the big club (finally). NAK used his extended playing time better than most recent Phantoms call ups and forced Alain Vigneault to keep the little pistol in the lineup night-in and night-out. He showed the tenacity and ability we thought was there, and provided enough production offensively to keep his place.
Maddie (ranked him #10): NAK is an NHL player, and has been since last season, and I’m not going to stop victory lapping about being on this before the organization figured it out/were forced to face it. I know the team was down on him for... reasons?...but to my eyes, he was doing everything right this season in Lehigh Valley, short of putting the puck in the back of the net. He’d pretty well mastered playing at that level, and he’d long deserved a longer look with the Flyers before he got it this season. His physicality, his tenacity, and his ability to drive play make him something of an ideal depth player for me, and I’m so thrilled to see him flourishing at the NHL level after toiling away in the American League for so long. He deserves this.
Kurt (ranked him #10): It was tough to put him much higher than this because I think everyone above him clearly has a higher ceiling as a player, but man, I wanted to. NA-K is just a guy who consistently finds himself in the right place to make plays, and it’s shown up in how his NHL stint this year has played out. He’s been scoring at a good rate given that he’s still in a clear bottom-six role. He’s passing the eye test. And his on-ice numbers are excellent. His skill set doesn’t blow you away, but this kind of guy — someone who just knows what the hell he’s doing on the ice — was who Ron Hextall liked taking chances on in the draft, and you can see why. The fact that it’s even a question whether he’ll break camp with the team next year speaks to how deep this organization is at forward right now, but it seems clear a long-term spot on the NHL club is, at worst, his to lose.
Ryan G. (ranked him #11): I’ve been a big fan of NAK for a while, and it’s great to see his play finally take that next step and be recognized as an NHL winger. It took him a while to earn his chance and take it, but he’s showing what he can do offensively in a checking role. NAK clearly can put the puck in the back of the net as shown by back-to-back 38-goal seasons in his final years in the QMJHL. He had a tough first year as a pro but has been on the up and up ever since. This season he’s cemented himself in the bottom six and he has the potential to move up the lineup. He’s fast, he’s tenacious, he can score, and he drives play. He does it all.
Brad (ranked him #12): I’m right there with Maddie in that I am reveling in Aube-Kubel’s NHL success. He’s been so good for the Phantoms, and should have been give an actual shot (ie. not averaging just barely five minutes a game) last year. But that’s in the past and he’s had his shot now, and what he has shown is that he can be an effective player in this league. The transition from receiving top-six minutes in the AHL to bottom-six in the NHL can be a tough adjustment, but it didn’t seem to effect NAK much at all. I know there were some concerns about his play in the AHL this season, but not only do I think that it was overblown at the time — and driven by a ridiculously low on-ice shooting percentage of 4.14% at five-on-five — but also that his play in the NHL really just speaks for itself. There was no problem there.
9. Nolan Patrick
Primary Team/League: Philadelphia, NHL
2019-20 Stats: Has not played due to migraine issues
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 5
Drew (ranked him #7): There’s not much really I can say about Patrick other than I hope he comes back stronger than ever in 2020-21. His first two seasons were decent, though we hoped for a breakout this year. Obviously with his illness he hasn’t played, and I still hope he can show what he’s made of next season.
Mike (ranked him #7): Nolan obviously pays the price for his injury situation, which of this writing is still far from resolved. It was a great sign that he was back practicing before the season was paused, but it never seemed like he was close to even a conditioning assignment. In any event he was headed for a lost season and that’s why he’ll drop in the rankings, but there’s no denying that if Patrick is healthy he’s one of the Flyers’ best prospects.
Maddie (ranked him #8): Yeah, I’m going to kind of echo what the guys have said so far. There were certainly some questions heading into this season about his development and ceiling, considering some of the struggles and inconsistency he faced in his first two seasons. And then his this season didn’t happen, and even if we assume he comes back at some point and is back to his old form, we’re still in that same spot and those questions remain. So his drop in the rankings this time around comes from other prospects with high ceilings taking steps forward while he stands still. You can’t fault him for that, but it is what it is. If he comes back and takes a step forward in his development, then he likely makes a big jump back up in the rankings. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Kurt (ranked him #7): So I’ll take this in a different direction. I think anyone who put Patrick this low pretty much has to be doing so because they’re either very concerned that he’s just not going to be the same player ever again or they’re really, really, really high on the next couple of guys in the ranking. I’ve liked Frost and Farabee in their NHL time this year, but were either of them markedly more impressive than Patrick was in his rookie year, at a younger age, in a less favorable setting/on a worse team? I dunno. Just something to think about in terms of framing here, because it’s worthless to speculate on how soon he’s going to be back playing hockey (even moreso than it is for everyone else!) and/or how long it’ll take him to get back to speed, and I won’t try to make any guesses there. Maybe the stoppage will work out for him if the season does actually start back up.
Ryan G. (ranked him #9): Yeah, Patrick’s stock took a hit because of the unfortunate injury situation he’s dealing with. It was good to see him making progress in practices in February, but that’s all come to a halt. It’s tough to rank Patrick given his situation, but his future is uncertain, which sucks. And to Kurt’s point (which was a good one (for once)), comparing Frost, Farabee, and Patrick does change the way you look at the rankings. They all have similar ceilings to a certain extent, and I guess the fact that we’ve seen Frost and Farabee play well more recently put them above Patrick for me.
Brad (ranked him #8): Patrick was a tough player to rank. It’s so hard to gauge how much missing a full season is going to effect his development, and as Maddie said, the two years we have to judge him off of were full of inconsistency. Which, to be fair, isn’t that weird for a player his age. He has a ton of talent and I still have a lot of hope that he lives up to his potential. As frustrating as him being out of the lineup is for fans, we can only imagine how frustrating it is for him. Hopefully he can return soon and find success.
8. Morgan Frost
Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley, AHL
2019-20 Stats: 13 G, 16 A in 41 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 7
Drew (ranked him #6): As I mentioned when talking about Nic Aube-Kubel, Frost is projected to be our future playmaker, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance in his NHL time so far. Heck, he scored a fantastic goal in his first game and I can’t wait to see more of that. His star will shine bright in the future, I’m sure of it. He’s got flashes of Claude Giroux level skill from such an early age, though he really reminds me of (it may be an unfair comparison) a flashier Adam Oates in terms of play style.
Mike (ranked him #9): I had Patrick ahead of Frost, but ever so slightly. Frost didn’t quite impress in his NHL time (seven points in 20 games), but wasn’t a total loss either (looking at you, Chris Stewart). A victim of the Flyers’ sometimes crowded top-nine at points this year, Frost honed his game in the AHL most of the season and showed the playmaking ability that had us drooling after his stellar OHL career. Still needs to get stronger, but he’s got the skill to be an impact player at the NHL level, just a matter of time.
Maddie (ranked him #6): Big, big, Frost fan here. He was certainly working through some adjustments this season, primarily striking that proper balance between responsibility in puck management, but while making sure this doesn’t come at the expense of the creativity that’s something of a hallmark of Frost’s game. And I don’t know that it’s something that he completely mastered by the end(ish) of the season, but he certainly made progress as the season went on. He still has some polishing to do in his game, and I wouldn’t really be surprised if we saw him spend a bit more time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL full time. But, that said, his playmaking ability is unmistakable, and there’s so much to be excited about in his potential.
Kurt (ranked him #9): My note from the last section notwithstanding, I think that the best possible version of the Flyers given everyone who was healthy right before the season stopped would have included Morgan Frost at third-line center. My opinion clearly doesn’t matter, though, because the Flyers basically tripped over themselves in the early part of the season to tell us they didn’t think he was NHL-ready, then called him up anyways because they didn’t think they had a choice but pretty much insisted they still weren’t sure he was ready, then sent him back down when it made sense for them. So now we’re here. And to be clear, while it certainly looked like Frost had some things to work on, you could also see the skill and ability shine through there. The team having him spend a ton of time with Giroux and Konecny was also interesting — rookies don’t often get that meal ticket that quickly.
Has Frost done enough to make you believe he breaks camp next season, whenever that is, on the NHL roster?
Ryan G. (ranked him #7): It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for Frost. From the favorite (or one of the favorites) to win a spot out of training camp, to – as Kurt said – showing that maybe he should be in the NHL in the early parts of the season. I think having both Frost and Farabee has shifted our view of both rookies in a way. Ignoring Farabee completely, Frost did well in his time with the Flyers and has done everything asked of him with the Phantoms. In a vacuum, he’s progressing well as a top prospect. However, if you compare him to Farabee, who has made more of an impact, Frost looks worse. I think Frost is still in line to be one of the strong competitors for the Flyers’ third-line center role (or winger if Patrick is healthy) next season after a year of maturing physically and figuring out how to play his game at the professional level.
How We Voted: 10 to 8
|10||Cam York||Cam York||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Philippe Myers||Nolan Patrick||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Cam York||Cam York||Morgan Frost||Nicolas Aube-Kubel|
|9||Morgan Frost||Philippe Myers||Philippe Myers||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Morgan Frost||Nolan Patrick||Philippe Myers||Morgan Frost||Nolan Patrick||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nolan Patrick|
|8||Nolan Patrick||Nolan Patrick||Travis Sanheim||Nolan Patrick||Morgan Frost||Joel Farabee||Morgan Frost||Nolan Patrick||Joel Farabee||Joel Farabee||Philippe Myers||Morgan Frost|