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2019-20 Player Review: Nicolas Aube-Kubel, at long last

Finally a full-time Flyer!

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Five Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Our next season for the Flyers is just around the corner, so it’s just about time that we finally put a bow on the last one. Next up on the docket we’ve got Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who finally made the jump and found a full-time role in the NHL this season.

In some ways this jump felt like it was a long time coming—Aube-Kubel’s been plugging away in the AHL for the better part of four seasons, honing his game and ultimately becoming one of their most consistent players. It took a while for him to get here, but the payoff was worth it. There was a whole lot to like about this season from Aube-Kubel, so let’s just get right into it.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick. Scoring numbers are for the regular season and playoffs, advanced stats just for the regular season.

By the numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
49 9 9 18 19 48 14.58%

Dipping first into these scoring numbers, there’s a lot to like. Aube-Kubel was placed in a depth role this season, so we weren’t expecting massive scoring numbers, but what we got was solid, considering the minutes he had to work with. He found a bit of a scoring touch, and he was able to tap into it pretty consistently. He hasn’t established himself as a volume shooter, but it’s a fine enough shooting rate. We might like to see a bit more, but it’s not a problem either.

Now, that said, we do like the results from last season, but it is worth noting that this scoring rate might not be sustainable. His shooting percentage isn’t astronomical, but it is a bit high, so we might reasonably expect some downward regression in that department. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Another positive piece we can take away is the penalty differential, as Aube-Kubel took eight penalties and drew 11 for a +3 differential. Now, in some ways, dialing in too closely on penalty differential feels a little like risking losing the forest for the trees, if you will, but in the case of this specific player, it’s an important thing to note. Taking ill-timed and ill-advised penalties was something of a sporadic issue for Aube-Kubel with the Phantoms, particularly in his sophomore season when he had a -12 penalty differential, and that had some people understandably concerned (after all, you don’t want to be on the penalty kill too often, and nor do you particularly want a player around who’s going to be consistently putting you there). But this is an area that Aube-Kubel’s cleaned up over the last two seasons, and that makes it feel even more encouraging to see him on the positive side of the differential now that’s he’s made it to the NHL level. We love growth out here, folks!

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi-For% Corsi-For% Rel Expected Goals-For% Expected Goals-For% Rel Goals For% PDO
Corsi-For% Corsi-For% Rel Expected Goals-For% Expected Goals-For% Rel Goals For% PDO
50.47 -0.27 54.52 3.2 54.55 1.009

5v5 Individual Stats

Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.83 1.98 13.37 0.7

So, on the whole, we liked the scoring impacts from last season, and the good news is that the underlying numbers came out positive as well. In some of our earlier reviews, we noted that the underlying numbers for a number of the Flyers’ depth players weren’t quite stellar, but often we could let that slide for the time being because at least the goal-based results were on their side. The good news here though is that we don’t have to go through all of that, because in Aube-Kubel’s case, the shot rates and the goal differentials are all strong.

When Aube-Kubel was on the ice, the Flyers came out with a slight edge in shot attempts, but the Expected Goals-For differential is really strong, as the Flyers pretty well dominated in generating more high danger chances than they gave up. The individual shot rates were solid too, as Aube-Kubel was top-10 in each of those individual stat rates, which is certainly more than respectable given his role. There’s nothing here that’s absolutely lights out, best of the best, but it’s all solid, and that feels pretty much in keeping with what we know about Aube-Kubel as a player. No complaints here.

Three burning questions

Did this player live up to our expectations this season?

In part, no, because based on his play in the AHL in 2018-19 I felt that he was more than ready for the NHL and I expected him to make the Flyers out of camp. I don’t think he had a poor camp, but the Flyers wanted to go in a different direction. It is what it is.

But where it matters—did he live up to my expectations for his play once he did make it to the NHL—it’s a resounding yes. There was a lot to like about his game this season, as we broke down above. It took a while for him to get a real chance, and he ran with it. His impact was immediate—he jumped in and pretty immediately became one of the team’s strongest forecheckers, he continued to flex strong shot impacts while still taking care of his defensive game, and he was able to bring a nice bit of scoring, to boot (and even looked good in the handful of looks that he got on on the second power play unit).

He was able to take everything that he was doing well with the Phantoms and translate that into his NHL game, and make it still work in more limited minutes, and he was able to do it consistently. In short, he made it just about impossible for the Flyers to send him back down.

What do we expect from this player next season?

Really, the big thing here is just more of the same. Aube-Kubel has pretty well solidified a permanent roster spot for himself—though the returns of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick likely guarantee that it will be just a fourth line role this time around—but we’ve seen him already working out how to be effective while playing more limited minutes.

He’s found his game already, we’ve seen what works, and with how consistent he was able to be as far as his underlying process went in his last couple of seasons with the Phantoms, we’re hopeful that he can bring that same consistency with him into his first full season with the Flyers.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

If there’s an upside to be found in a player spending perhaps too much time developing in the AHL, it’s that by the time they finally make the jump to the NHL, they’re pretty much a finished product, and this was particularly the case with Aube-Kubel. There really aren’t any big holes in his game that need shoring up at this point, he’s already shown us a well-rounded game in his first NHL season. So what that leaves us with is “all of those good things you did to make sure you stuck around with the team? More of that please!” Aube-Kubel was one of the Phantoms’ most consistent players in his last couple of seasons with them, and already we’ve seen that coming through with the Flyers.

As we alluded to earlier, there is a concern that regression will hit and the scoring numbers will fall off a bit, but if he keeps up the good work, keeps his details taken care of, we’ll be able to feel good about the result, even if the scoring rate isn’t quite as high as last season. The scoring contributions are certainly a nice bonus, but what we really like about his game is his forechecking impact, that’s what makes him effective, so that’s the primary piece we want to see remaining strong.