If you go to Calgary Flames prospects camp at WinSport, sixth round 2016 draft pick Matthew Phillips is easy to spot and hard to spot all at the same time.
The skill of the Victoria Royals dynamo certainly stands out, but at 5’6″ and a 150 pounds, he’s the smallest on the ice. Smallest player on the ice but one of the most skilled, sound familiar?
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Calgary Flames new head coach Glen Gulutzan certainly draws the comparison to Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau, who was Matthew Phillips’ size when he was 18.
“I think there’s a guy in Calgary right now and I can’t remember his name but he’s pretty good and he’s not very big,” Gulutzan said.
And Phillips doesn’t mind being compared to the Flames top scorer.
“Getting mentioned with him is pretty special,” Phillips said. “And he’s a guy I’ve watched a lot and looked up to and I’ve tried to model parts of my game after him, so it’s pretty cool.”
Flames prospect goalie Jon Gillies is 6’6″ and a full foot taller than Phillips. Both players represent a trend in the NHL: goalies are getting massive while forwards can thrive even if they’re smaller. Phillips likes the trend.
“Goalies and forwards are kind of going in opposite directions but the game has changed a lot in the past 10 years with the new rules,” Phillips said. “And it’s a faster pace of play and there’s more and more space for the small player.”
Being a sixth round draft pick, Phillips didn’t get to officially put on a Flames jersey until this week’s prospects camp. It was just another great moment in his nearly two-week-long whirlwind since being drafted by the Flames.
As for camp itself, he’s proud of how he’s battled the big pros.
“Everyone’s here competing, it’s a competitive environment but that’s how you get better. I wouldn’t want them to take it easy on me so it’s really good.”
The next thrill for Phillips will be playing in Thursday morning’s scrimmage with a packed crowd of friends and family watching.
Now that’s big!