Recently named captain of the Red Deer Rebels, overager Luke Philp is looking to make a case for himself to NHL scouting staffs as he leads his team to this year’s home appearance at the Memorial Cup. With six points in seven games since coming back from an ankle injury that caused him to miss two months, Philp has 35 points total (17 goals, 18 assists) in 29 games this season.
Philp was traded to the Rebels on January 4, after playing his entire major-junior career with the Kootenay Ice, including the first half of this season as their captain. It’s clear he’s a player that coaches and other players look to as a leader — something that, along with the playoff experience he picked up with the Ice, the Rebels are hoping will help them on their postseason run and in the Memorial Cup.
A right-shooting center from Canmore, Alberta, Philp is currently 5’10” and 174 pounds. As he was 5’9” and 180 pounds his draft year, it’s logical to assume that his size was one factor in his drop from the draft board.
However, scouts likely had other concerns as well. Despite being ranked 80th by Central Scouting in their final rankings (125th at midterm), Philp spent a good amount of time that year playing with Sam Reinhart. It’s possible this caused Philp to be overshadowed by his linemate, with scouts likely believing that Reinhart was carrying Philp. Even with those concerns, however, he would’ve been a good late-round choice.
Legitimate concerns during Philp’s draft season included his skating and his play in the neutral and defensive zones. While his skating has improved, his defensive zone play still needs work, and neither is quite where scouts want them to be at this point in his career. However, these are both things that Philp could improve by spending some time developing in the AHL. This is particularly true if he is signed by a team with a good track record of developing prospects, such as the Detroit Red Wings or the Dallas Stars.
Despite these lingering issues, however, Philp is still a legitimate prospect. He has been a better than point per game player his last two seasons, posting 77 points in 71 games his draft year and 82 points in 71 games last season. Per WHLStats.ca, 71.43 percent of his 35 points so far this season have come at even strength. While that’s a small sample size due to his injury, it seems to be in line with his past numbers.
Philp has great hockey sense and reads the play well — a valuable trait in a prospect, as it can be difficult to teach. He is also versatile, able to play both center and wing.
With so many teams concerned about the salary cap staying flat, or even going down, an easy way to boost forward depth is by signing young players to Entry Level Contracts. Florida is reported to be close to a deal with Dryden Hunt, which puts their young core even younger.
For NHL scouting staffs looking to bolster their forward prospect pools next year, they could do worse than to keep a close eye on Philp through the rest of the season.