The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.
In an End to End series starting today, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.
Today we will be looking at rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
The 2019-20 season felt like the first time the Flyers were able to put their stacked pipeline to the test and it made the long wait worth it. Aube-Kubel, a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL draft, was finally given a legitimate shot with the club and he didn’t disappoint.
He dressed for 36 games this season, collected 15 points along the way (seven goals, eight assists) and did so as a bottom-six forward. His numbers aren’t out of this world, but for a rookie to transition to the NHL as smoothly and confidently as he did, he elevated his game — and the team as a whole — from the jump. For years, creating depth on the roster has remained a consistent issue. So having a young, strong, smart forward in the mix, who is able to adapt to any situation thrown at him, makes for a promising future.
Aube-Kubel has quickly become a reliable asset and will only continue to grow as his career progresses. He made his mark in only 36 games ... imagine what he will be capable of with the full 82.
Based on my personal expectations set when he was called up in December, I’d give him an A.
This is a young player that had his chances last season, but couldn’t exactly make that splash that would solidify a roster spot with the Flyers. This year, with the new coaching staff, he had another chance to showcase what he could bring to the table and he executed.
The Flyers' 2014 second-round pick knew he had a lot to prove when he got his call-up right before the holidays. In his first five games, Aube-Kubel recorded three points (one goal, two assists), was a plus-1 and generated 11 shots on goal. Following those five games, the winger continued to grow in the bottom six.
When you talk about how strong the Flyers depth at forward has been this season, NAK is a big reason for it. Though he could have added more in the final 13 games of the regular season, he still had some solid numbers (36 games, seven goals, eight assists). On top of that offensive depth, he also added physicality. Though you could argue dropping the gloves isn’t the biggest part of the game anymore, coaches still love to see that toughness. Aube-Kubel got into his fair share of scuffles. His 82 hits in 36 games isn’t something to overlook either.
His 2019-20 regular-season performance is an easy A.
Last season, I remember a lot of people around the team talking about Aube-Kubel as a guy who needed to take that “next step” to be a consistent NHL guy. It seems under Alain Vigneault and the current Flyers coaching staff, he’s been able to do just that.
When NAK was called up midseason for depth following a string of injuries among the Flyers' forwards, Vigneault publicly said he believed he had all the raw materials to succeed at the NHL level — speed, ability, physicality. But, Vigneault thought Aube-Kubel needed to put it all together on a more consistent basis.
Well, once the Flyers hit their stride following the NHL All-Star break, it seems so did Aube-Kubel. Since Jan. 31, he recorded five goals, six assists and was a plus-7 in 19 games played. Of course, he recorded that Gordie Howe hat trick against the Capitals during that stretch as well. He’s really taken that “next step” to become a good depth piece for the team.
I’d give him an A for growth and surpassing certain expectations, but I think he’s still got quite a bit of room to grow as a player. So it’s a solid B/B+ for me right now.
When the Flyers penciled NAK into the lineup, I highly doubt they envisioned 15 points in 36 games. They likely expected bottom-six if not bottom-three minutes, sound defensive play and a guy who could fill out a lineup. Aube-Kubel far surpassed those expectations.
Aube-Kubel scored seven goals and registered eight assists, and within those seven goals, two of them were power play goals. This is a player who later in the season the Flyers could count on to be a swiss army knife — able to move up and down the lineup, play with different players, and even chip in on the power play if necessary. In my opinion, the road is paved for Aube-Kubel to, at minimum, be a bottom-six mainstay going forward with a potential ceiling much higher.
I’m going to give Aube-Kubel an A for this season.
In mid-December, Aube-Kubel was summoned by the banged-up Flyers out of sheer necessity and gave them every reason to keep him up the remainder of the season.
He made himself constantly noticeable with an energetic and opportunistic style. He was also eager for opportunity after a nine-game stint last season in which he played only 5:35 minutes per night.
This season through 36 games, the 24-year-old winger recorded seven goals and eight assists in 11:17 minutes per night, even earning power play time.
Vigneault strategically found good spots for Aube-Kubel, rewarding his strong play while effectively keeping him motivated. As a result, Aube-Kubel consistently provided his north-south effort and he made the Flyers better, as they went 24-11-2 since his call-up.
“I didn’t really know a lot about him,” Vigneault said in late February. “I saw him a little bit in training camp, we didn’t keep him obviously because we felt at the time there were some other players that were performing better. But ever since we’ve called him up, I think he’s felt better. In my sense, he’s improving. You see the speed, the size, the physicality, big body that can go in the tough areas. Can he put it all together and become an effective NHL player? Time will well. I do know in this span, so far for us, he’s been good and we need him to continue to be good.”
Let’s give Aube-Kubel a B+ for seizing opportunity with a positive 36-game body of work.
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