2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers prospect review: Nicolas Aube-Kubel
A graduate! At long last!
It feels a little strange to be writing a prospect review for Nicolas Aube-Kubel, as he seems to have ostensibly graduated to the NHL on a full time basis, but the fact remains that it did take him a little bit of time to get there, and this gave us a significant enough stretch of time with the Phantoms to be worth writing about, so we’re writing about it!
In perhaps a shocking turn of events, after a solid enough start to training camp, Aube-Kubel found himself cut around the midway point and returned to the Phantoms to start the season with them, his fourth with the team. And from there the narratives got a little divisive, as Aube-Kubel seemed to be working well to drive overall team success, but struggled to find the same consistent scoring punch that we had seen from him in the past. But, overall, there was a lot to like from him, and his eventual recall to the Flyers felt much deserved (and long overdue). And there was no looking back from there.
By the numbers
We might as well address the elephant in the room right off the bat here and have a look at those scoring numbers. To put it plainly, eight points in 26 games really isn’t stellar, particularly from a player like Aube-Kubel who had established himself as one of the team’s more consistent scorers, to date. To see that he put up more goals than assists might suggest something about the support he was getting from his teammates in terms of them being able to drive scoring on their line, but the point remains that these totals do fall a bit short of our expectations, even when we consider the drop-off in overall team scoring.
The eye tells us he was in something of a slump for a while there—indeed, it seemed there were so many times when Aube-Kubel would get himself into just a perfect scoring position and then would fire his shot either wide of the net or straight into the goalie’s chest. It’s hard to quantify being in one’s own head, but it’s also hard to avoid the feeling that there may well have been some of that at work, here. Because everything else seemed to be working, but the finish is just where it was lacking.
5v5 On-Ice Stats
|Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi For%||Corsi For% Relative||Scoring Chances For%||Goals For||Goals Against||Goals For%|
But, with all that said, I also at the time found (and continue to find) it hard to be too fussed about Aube-Kubel’s lack of scoring during his time with the Phantoms, and much of that is because his underlying numbers during that time were little short of stellar. In each of CF%, SCF%, and HDCF%, he’s tops among all regular forwards (indeed, all forwards not named Joel Farabee). And, to be completely honest, it’s really hard to overstate how impressive that is, considering how the team struggled to drive play this season, pretty regularly getting buried in both shot volume and shot quality. Aube-Kubel was little short of a star, territoriality, for the Phantoms this season, and even if the goal based results weren’t going for him, those underlying numbers and what we know about regression suggests that things would have turned for him eventually.
So why was there a perception among some that his performance was lacking through the early part of his season? A 43.75 GF% and a 94.23 on-ice save percentage likely had something to do with it. It’s an issue of sample size when you’re looking just at goal-based results, on top of the fact that Aube-Kubel was also getting pretty unlucky through much of his time with the Phantoms, and sometimes those are the things that get picked up and given some more weight when we’re narrativizing. So it goes.
5v5 Neutral Zone Stats
|Entry Attempts||Entries||Controlled Entry%||Possession Entry%||Exit Attempts||Exits||Controlled Exit%|
But it’s not just the shot impacts that were notable, so too are these transition numbers strong. We talked earlier this week about David Kase being something of a volume generator of entries for his line(s), and much the same is the case with Aube-Kubel. In his 24 games tracked, he generated a total of 134 entries (averaging 5.58 entries per game), and had a pretty remarkable rate of generating controlled entries. His Controlled Entry% is fifth on the team, and that 73.13 Possession Entry% is second (among forwards) only to Morgan Frost, and that all just speaks to Aube-Kubel’s consistency and reliability—if he’s tasked with moving the puck into the offensive zone, there’s almost no one better at making sure it’s with possession.
The exit numbers are strong as well, but with forwards not being responsible for the bulk of the exits, generally speaking, that’s just sort of a nice bonus. But it is certainly a plus to see that the percentage of controlled exits is strong as well, that when he’s called upon to lead the breakout, he’s able to start it well and keep his teammates in a good position to make it through the neutral zone with possession. It all just sort of works together nicely.
Three burning questions
1. Did Aube-Kubel live up to our expectations this season?
I mean, I expected that he was going to make the Flyers out of training camp, and that didn’t happen, so... And that’s no fault of his own, he had a strong enough camp and was ready enough heading into the season, but management decided to go another route to start. Which is all just to say that sometimes expectations have to change on the fly.
That said, I think Aube-Kubel just about lived up to my expectations for him back in the AHL. As we broke down earlier, he did have some trouble finding the back of the net. but in terms of driving play and making sure all of the finer points of his game were taken care of, that was all working well. But his shot impacts and transition numbers were solid, and he still served as one of the team’s most consistent play drivers. Even if he wasn’t the one scoring the goals, he was putting his teammates in a very good position to do so. Something was happening just about every time he was on the ice, and that was just about the level of dominance that I was looking to see.
2. What do we expect from Aube-Kubel next season?
I expect to never see him with the Phantoms ever again, and that feels pretty good to say. We’ll miss him, but the time has finally come for him to graduate full time to the NHL. And it would be nice to see him get an increased role with them, and if he performs well for the Flyers in the playoffs, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this happen. Either way, we can reasonably expect for him to continue to get settled in at the NHL level, and look to make an even bigger impact, in turn.
3. What would we like to see Aube-Kubel to improve on?
We’ll get more into this when we review his season with the Flyers, but there isn’t a whole lot in terms of glaring weaknesses in his game that need shoring up. His NHL underlying numbers are solid, and he brought a nice bit of scoring when called upon, and really we just want to see him make sure that he’s able to maintain playing at that level. Even more scoring would be great, especially if he ends up getting some more power play time, but what we’re looking for is consistency. It hasn’t been an issue so far, but we just want to be really sure that he doesn’t dip too much at any point.