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2011 NHL Draft

Phillips Makes Good Decisions On And Off The Ice

Monday, 06.06.2011 / 3:40 PM / 2011 NHL Draft
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Phillips Makes Good Decisions On And Off The Ice
Zack Phillips is renowned for getting the puck to the right spot on the ice, but after first picking NCAA hockey, he got himself to the right spot -- the Saint John Sea Dogs
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Author: Bill Hoppe | Correspondent

Zack Phillips wanted no part of Canadian junior hockey. So at 14 years old, the scrawny 5-foot-2 center left his Fredericton, N.B., home for Massachusetts. He believed a few years in prep school would prepare him for NCAA hockey, which he felt would be a better path for his development.
"I wasn't mature enough for (junior) yet, I think," said Phillips, whose Saint John Sea Dogs captured their first MasterCard Memorial Cup championship against the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors. "I thought college was going to be the better route for me because I was small and I had a couple more years before I could play college if I was in junior."
Phillips played two years at the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Mass., and one at the Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. He eventually committed to the University of Massachusetts.
But Phillips' college plans quickly began to change.
First, he grew about six inches in one year, he said. Then the Lewiston MAINEiacs, who had taken him with the 34th pick of the 2008 QMJHL Entry Draft, traded him in 2009 to Saint John, just an hour from his home.
"I thought I was going to play college hockey, but then when I grew and got traded close to home I thought I'd just come here," said Phillips, who now stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 178 pounds.
Almost two years later, Phillips' decision has worked out splendidly.
Fresh off a scintillating 38-goal, 95-point season with the Sea Dogs, Phillips is ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting in its final listing of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft, and it's likely he'll be chosen in the first round of this month's draft.
Phillips finished with five points (four assists0 in the tournament, including the game-winning goal and an assist in the championship game of a 3-1 final. The 18-year-old, who had 9 goals and 24 points in 17 QMJHL playoff games, possesses the rare talent to score every time he's on the ice.
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Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant often has compared Phillips to Adam Oates, his old Detroit Red Wings teammates, who compiled 1,420 points in 19 NHL seasons. The coach sees similar vision and passing abilities in the two.
"Zack's the type of guy, he finds the open ice," Gallant said. "He'll be a guy that goes in there, and the play will be on the other side. He just finds that quiet area. People get the puck to him. He's got a great shot, he's a great passer. He's just a guy that finds the open ice and makes great plays."
Phillips couldn't make as many great plays last season, when his rookie status and some talented veterans relegated him to fourth-line duty.
However, he made the most of his opportunities, developing some chemistry with slick left wing Jonathan Huberdeau, Central Scouting's No. 3-ranked North American skater. Despite limited ice time, Phillips still had 16 goals and 44 points.
Phillips and Huberdeau have comprised a lethal No. 1 line with several right wings this season. The two say they know each other's spot on the ice at all times.
"It was a big jump, but I was ready to make it," Phillips said of the move to the QMJHL. "He's helped me a lot. I feel like I've helped him."
Huberdeau added: "When I pass him the puck, I know it's going to come back to me or he's going to score."
The limited action last season helped Phillips transform into an elite talent. He came to the Sea Dogs with a reputation for taking end-to-end rushes and having limited defensive skill.
As a rookie, Phillips realized quickly he had to lose his prep-school habits.
"It helped me adjust to the league a lot, and it taught me a lot about playing all over the ice," Phillips said of his first season. "It's an important role that I think everyone has to go through at some point in their life, I think, to become a more complete player."
But he's still not complete enough to play in the NHL next season, Gallant said. Obviously, Phillips wants to make the giant leap.
He's one of the few players at the Memorial Cup who acknowledged that the Draft was on his mind. He even said he looks at the teams around his slot. The 15th slot currently is held by the New York Rangers.
"I think about it quite a bit," Phillips said. "It's nerve-racking. You're thinking about what team's going to take you. That's the biggest thing, you think about what round and stuff, but mostly it's about where, what organization."
Phillips has no regrets about picking the Sea Dogs' organization over college.
"It's a cool life down there (in the U.S.)," Phillips said. "I like it a lot and it's a big part of me, but I'm definitely happy with the decision I made."




1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31


N. Bjugstad 44 15 12 1 27
J. Huberdeau 41 8 17 1 25
A. Ekblad 44 6 19 7 25
J. Jokinen 43 4 20 0 24
J. Hayes 36 13 7 1 20
B. Boyes 42 9 11 1 20
S. Bergenheim 33 7 9 4 16
T. Fleischmann 38 5 8 9 13
V. Trocheck 28 4 9 6 13
D. Kulikov 39 1 12 -2 13
R. Luongo 17 10 8 .923 2.32
A. Montoya 3 4 2 .887 3.09 is the official Web site of the Florida Panthers. Florida Panthers and are trademarks of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.