Tyrell Goulbourne has heard it all.
"He's only good at fighting."
"Why did the Flyers take him in the third round?"
"He's another Zac Rinaldo."
"What makes him think he's going to play in the NHL one day?"
"He's a goon."
If you're trying to prevent Goulbourne from living out his dream, you're going to have to try harder. There's nothing you can say that will stop him from enjoying this ride.
He learned a long time ago that you have to have thick skin to be a professional hockey player.
"From the first tweet I got saying it was a waste of a draft pick or he is just a goon I was like, 'OK let's go,'" Goulbourne said on the latest edition of Comcast SportsNet's The Orange Line. "It's all motivation to me. I don't take it the wrong way. Fans are passionate here. They're going to have a lot to say wherever you go. I just took that in a positive way and I'm working to prove them wrong."
Goulbourne, a third-round pick in 2013, is just 30 games into his first pro season, but he's already squashed the narrative that he's just another Rinaldo.
Sure, the 21-year-old has shown no fear to drop the gloves — he's won all three of his fights in commanding fashion, too. And he's certainly not one to shy away from physicality. He's actually at his best when he's throwing his body around.
But the big difference between Goulbourne and Rinaldo is discipline. Goulbourne has been whistled for just two minor penalties in 2015-16. How many times have we seen Rinaldo in the box multiple times a game?
There's much more to Goulbourne's game than grit and toughness. First-year Phantoms coach Scott Gordon has realized that, which is why Goulbourne has been given the opportunity to play on the second power-play unit and serve as a key penalty killer.
"I'm an energy forward," Goulbourne said. "I'm a good two-way guy. I can contribute offensively. I like to get in that D-Zone and along the walls as a winger. I love being on the PK. That's what I take pride in, penalty killing. I'm a fast winger and I like to get in gritty and get pucks in deep and hammer away."
Goulbourne has been one of the biggest surprises in Allentown this season. In addition to the character and energy he's supplied, he's also managed to chip in six goals and 10 points.
It seemed obvious that Goulbourne had more of an offensive upside than a grinder like Rinaldo after registering 45 points in his final junior season with Kelowna last year. Who he played with made a difference — he skated on the Rockets' top line — but he made strides in learning how to keep pace in the offensive zone.
It's safe to say nobody expected this, however.
"You know what the cool thing is? The people that were doubting me have kind of hopped on board now," Goulbourne said. "That's a good feeling. I don't feel disrespected or anything. I just use it as motivation."
Now an argument can still be made that Goulbourne was a stretch in the third round, especially when a player like Anthony Duclair was still available. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the fact remains that Goulbourne was selected 100 picks ahead of where he was projected and probably would've still been around in the later rounds.
You can’t fault the player for that though.
Despite his early success in the minors, the likelihood that Goulbourne transitions into a skilled, impact player remains unlikely. But that doesn't mean there isn't an upside to his game.
Could he be a serviceable bottom-six forward in the NHL one day? If he can continue to contribute on the PK and remain disciplined, then absolutely.
Goulbourne's head is in the right place, that's for sure. He believes in himself and that could go a long way. Plus, he seems to have a good handle on his temper.
Call him the anti-Rinaldo.
"We're this close to it," he said of possibly playing in the NHL. "We're only a call-up away. It's a pretty surreal feeling that any day you could be going up."