2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 15 Zack Phillips

When you are a talented player on arguably the best Major Junior team in Canada, your statistics are most likely going to be exceptional. Saint John Sea Dogs center Zack Phillips is no different. His 38 goals and 95 points in 67 Quebec Major Junior League games this season helped spark their dominance in the Q, en route to 58 wins and 119 points, the most of any Canadian League team in 2010-11. Phillips finished the season tied for sixth in the QMJHL in points, and second on Saint John to 2011 draft prospect Jonathan Huberdeau.

After dominating play at Eaglebrook Pre-prep School against some of the best AAA players in the world, Phillips committed to play the 2009-10 season at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. However, just before the hockey season started, he dropped his commitment and headed to the QMJHL, where he was picked up by Saint John. Playing on the fourth line that season, he managed to put up 44 points in 65 games – including 30 of those points in the final 32 games. “At the time, I thought the college route might be better for me as a player and a person,” Phillips said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. “I was really small growing up, my second year down there I grew nine inches and started to get more notice for my hockey and thought this [the QMJHL] might be the better route.”

The 6-foot-1, 181-pound center upped his game in year two of the Q, posting the aforementioned 95 points, along with an impressive plus-48 rating. His numbers were helped by playing with QMJHL stars Huberdeau and Stanislav Galiev – one of whom has already been drafted (Galiev, Washington Capitals, 3rd Round), the other of whom will be drafted this summer.

Phillips’ biggest strength is his hockey sense. He understands the game well, knows where to be and where not to be, and simply gets it. He also has soft hands, can make great passes, and is willing to and capable of playing consistent defense.

“Zack is a very talented two-way ice hockey player who has a bright future ahead of him,” said Jeff Quebec, Eaglebrook School’s Director of Ice Hockey. “He sees the ice extremely well and is a creative playmaker and pure goal scorer. Zack was a strong student-athlete at Eaglebrook and played a large role in the success of our teams during his two years here. He served as one of our captains and displayed strong leadership both on and off the ice. I am very proud of him and look forward to seeing another one of my former Eaglebrook School players drafted by the National Hockey League.”
Something that scouts have noticed Phillips needs to improve on is his skating. In the new NHL, as everyone knows, having speed and high-level skating ability is crucial to anyone’s success. Phillips is great in traffic and able to maneuver around bodies. But on the rush and on the backcheck, he is often caught and overtaken by opposing skaters.

But if Phillips can improve his skating just a bit, you can expect him to make an impact in the NHL in just a couple years. And any team who drafts him understands the talent they will be getting.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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