Lehigh Valley Phantoms report cards: Forward prospects (part three)

Rounding out this group.

We’re back and the time has finally come for us to wrap up our talks on the forward prospects. Yes indeed, we’ve finally come to the end of our list, and while we did hit a bit of a pocket of negativity for a bit there, we’ve got a lot of nice things to say now. Maybe that’s a spoiler, but who doesn’t love a bit of good news!

Nicolas Aube-Kubel

26 GP. 5 G, 3 A, 8 P. 54.04 CF%. Grade: A-

Maddie, A-: Aube-Kubel’s time with the Phantoms seems to have become (somewhat inexplicably, if you ask me) something of a divisive topic, but I feel really good about it. I know it’s easy to look at his point totals and make a case that he had taken a step back or was lacking in consistency, but this really wasn’t the story at all. Indeed, he was the team’s most consistent generator of scoring chances, he seemed to be active in trying to make something happen just about every time he was on the ice. He even got a chance to do more penalty killing in that time, and showed positively there. I really don’t have any complaints about his game this season, and I just really want to reemphasize that the points weren’t an issue, and that we shouldn’t let this control the narrative. He wasn’t playing poorly at all, he was just getting terribly unlucky.

Brad, B+: Aube-Kubel is the lone player that has consistently had positive shot impacts over the last three seasons. He wasn’t with Lehigh for very long this season, but as Maddie mentioned, there had been some talk of him not being as effective in his time. I never thought this was the case, and given that the two of us are very much on the same page here, i’ll just reinforce her points with the data; At the time of his December re-call, he led the team in both scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five — the “problem” was a 4.14 on-ice shooting percentage. Sometimes points do a poor job at showing effectiveness, and I do think his lack of points had more to do with luck than anything else.

David Kase

51 GP. 7 G, 12 A, 19 P. 51.68 CF%. Grade: B

Maddie, B: I feel pretty good about Kase’s sophomore season. I came into this season pretty optimistic—I liked a lot of what I saw from him in his rookie year, but wanted to see him improve some of his underlying numbers and be a little stronger in driving play. And guess what, gang! That’s exactly what he did! The scoring may have been down a bit, but I’m not too fussed about it, considering the drop off in offense on the whole team level. I think Kase took a step forward this season in rounding out his game, and that was really nice to see. There are still some areas where he could improve some more—a bit more consistency in scoring and decision making away from the puck—but it isn’t as though those are serious deficiencies in his game, to begin with. All in all, I’m pleased with the progress he’s made, and I’m excited to see if he’s able to continue that next season.

Brad, B-: I thought Kase was more effective prior to his NHL debut, but I wouldn’t read anything into that as far as it being a reason why, it’s just coincidental. The team itself was playing better (marginally) before his debut as well. Overall, he still had very strong shot impacts at 5-on-5 — taking a look now, even better than I remember them being — and was easily one of the team’s best skaters. The points-per-game dropped from a year ago, but that’s what happens when the whole team has trouble scoring. Would it have been nice to see him step and lead the way there? Absolutely, and that’s why he’s not receiving an A here, but he was still a positive contributor and pretty consistently created offensive chances.

Pascal Laberge

23 GP. 7 G, 3 A, 10 P. 44.42 CF%. Grade: C

Maddie, C+: It was a limited showing for Laberge with the Phantoms this season, as he split time (perhaps surprisingly, given how good he looked at the end of the 2018-19 season, and how please the coaching staff was with his play) between the AHL and ECHL, but overall I’m pretty pleased with what we saw from him in his relatively brief stint with the Phantoms. They had him playing mostly in a depth role, and he brought a good bit of energy while also showing some nice playmaking flashes. And, of course, the goals contributed are a plus as well. His grade takes a bit of a hit because of the weaker shot impacts, but it’s worth remembering that he still only has 38 professional games under his belt, between this season and last, so I’m not ready to write this off as a weakness in his game that can never rebound. It’s worth watching, though. That said, hopefully, with some other players graduating, Laberge should be given a more consistent role with the team next season, and a chance to give us a longer look at what he can do.

Brad, C: I thought Laberge was fine, and his offensive production was a real plus, even with it being a small sample size. My eye test thought he was a positive influence on an ever struggling power play, and if his role increases next season, he may be a part of the solution there.

Mikhail Vorobyev

45 GP. 12 G, 16 A, 28 P. 49.73 CF%. Grade: B

Maddie, B+: There was a lot to like about Vorobyev’s season, I think. He finished out fourth on the team in scoring, posted strong transition numbers, though somewhat uncharacteristic middling shot metrics. He remained a strong penalty killer and one of their better playmakers. I don’t know that I would say that Vorobyev took a huge step forward in his development this season (though I would say I found him to be more consistent), but he has been a solid contributor for them in all situations, and that remained the case this season, as well. He stuck to his game and just about lived up to expectations, and it’s hard to find a whole lot to complain about, there.

Brad, B-: Maybe the toughest grade for me, with a lot of conflicting thoughts. I’ve been a big fan of Vorobyev going back to his rookie season, but despite the point totals being up, I don’t think that he was as effective as he was in seasons prior. And surely some of that could some of that be team effects, but I felt that way last season as well, albeit a bit less. Balancing my high expectations, thoughts of possible stagnation in development, undeniably good offensive production, and him continuing being a great penalty killer keeps him in the B territory for me. But I’m left wanting more.