Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 NHL Draft Prospects: Zack Phillips

The 2011 draft now less than one month away, and the Rangers scouting and front office staff is looking through many prospects to see who they want to select with the 15th overall selection.  With the current state of the Rangers defense both at the NHL and prospect level one would expect that New York will look for offense in the first round of the draft hoping to find an impact scorer.  Tuesday, I took a look at Mark Scheifele, who is a center from the OHL that produced against the best the opposition had to offer despite playing with inferior talent around him.  Wednesday, Mark McNeill and his power forward type personality in the body of a center was the prospect under the microscope.  Today, Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) is the player looked at to see how he would fit with the New York Rangers.
Phillips had a phenomenal season with the Sea Dogs posting 38 goals and 57 assists in 67 games.  He continued that play in the playoffs with nine goals and 15 assists in 17 playoff games.  Playing with fellow top prospect, Jonathan Huberdeau, Phillips shows a nose for the net that makes him special.  He is not a great athlete or skater, but the same was said of Jeff Skinner last year.  Natural goal scoring skill is something that you cannot teach or account for and something the Rangers desperately need.
Phillips came in at 15 in the Final Central Scouting Rankings of North American Skaters.  He possesses good size at 6’1” 195 pounds and is not afraid to play in front of the net. 
Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch’s
A bit of a surprise to the general public when he appeared ninth overall on The Hockey News' 2011 Draft Preview which was released last week in Canada. However, some scouts are telling us that Phillips in the top-10 isn't much of a shocker to them given his big goal scoring potential and a natural nose for the net that players like Jeff Skinner have forced NHL teams to respect. Phillips is not an explosive player, and he's certainly benefited from skating alongside playmakers like Huberdeau and Michael Kirkpatrick this season, but to insinuate that he's not a lethal scoring threat is to sell the former Massachusetts prep player short. The former Lawrence Academy standout (19 goals, 48 points in 30 games) from Fredericton, NB was involved in a car accident that killed teammate Mark Frattaroli in September 2008 (Frattaroli was driving when the vehicle struck a tree). Zack is an October 1992 birthdate, so he's on the older scale of the 2011 class, but he had a tremendous season with 38 goals and 95 points. At 6-1, 195 pounds, he can drive hard to the net and has outstanding hands to finish off plays in close.
Prediction: 10-15 pick; NHL teams love goal scorers, and while he's not the best skater, his size, hands and hockey sense make too much sense for him to stick around on the board for long.
Coach Gerard Gallant on
Zack has great vision and is strong on the puck. He's a solid center and has come a long way in a short time. He kind of reminds me of an Adam Oates-type of player … he's strong on the puck down low and in the corners and has nifty hands.
The Scouting Report (Ranked 34, midseason)
Phillips has been steadily rising over the past two seasons and could make a case to go in the late first round of the NHL Entry Draft this season along with what could be three other Sea Dogs’ teammates. Phillips is a good offensive player who does a lot of things well, but doesn’t really have a defining quality. He’ll need to improve his skating a bit as well in the future.
As the Hockey News’ showed in ranking him at nine in their draft preview, goal scoring can cause players to come off the board earlier than others might project.  The biggest hurdle to Phillips becoming a New York Ranger, other than whether he is on the board at 15, could be Glen Sather’s seeming refusal to draft players from the QMJHL in the first round.  As Jess Rubenstein points out, over at The Prospect Park, Sather has only taken 1 player from the QMJHL in the first round in 33 picks.
If Phillips is available at 15, depending on what other forwards are available, I would certainly consider taking him as the Rangers need someone that can put the puck in the net.  Skating could be an issue, but he has all the other tools that say production can outweigh skating concerns.