Zack Phillips, Center, Saint John Sea Dogs (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
Born October 28, 1992....6'1", 175 lbs...Right hand shot...Ranked 15th-best North American skater in final Central Scouting rankings, down from 12th at mid-term...played prep school hockey at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts but was born in New Brunswick...initially committed to UMass (Hockey East) before deciding on the CHL route...spent last two seasons with Saint John of the QMJHL...put up 38 goals and 57 assists (95 points) in 67 games this season, which is tied for sixth in the league in scoring...quick and deadly shot which can fool goalies...helped lead Saint John to their first Memorial Cup this season...teammates with Simon Despres (Pit), Nathan Beaulieu (2011 draft eligible) and Jonathan Huberdeau (2011 draft eligible)...opportunistic scorer who has great chemistry with teammates...can play on both ends of the ice...was second on team with a +48...played center but better suited as a wing at the next level...needs to work on his skating...will go into the corners and make the dirty plays...uses his size well but only had 8 PIM last season...one of the slower guys in his draft tier...ranking is in flux due to questions surrounding whether or not his numbers are the product of the players around Phillips.
Nate Wells on Zack Phillips:
"Zack has great vision and is strong on the puck. He's a solid center and has come a long way in a short time. He kind of reminds me of an Adam Oates-type of player … he's strong on the puck down low and in the corners and has nifty hands."
-Saint John coach Gerald Gallant
To me, Phillips is a player who fits the Wild well. Yes he plays in the same league as the infamous James Sheppard did, but Zack is a scorer who can also play on both ends of the ice, gritty and not afraid to work hard and go to the net. Philips has talent but is not flashy in the sense that many players of his caliber would be. In addition, his instincts allow him to be a playmaker and help set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. I have him at the high end that many of the scouting services have (which range anywhere from 12 to 27) but it's not surprising to see Zack be all over the place. Sometimes it is hard to get a great read on the overall potential due to the talent on Saint John, a team which could have four first-round picks this year. For every Brad Richards (who played alongside Vincent Lecavalier in juniors) there is a Dany Roussin (who put up 116 points next to Sidney Crosby and has toiled in the minors ever since). And while he's not Jonathan Huberdeau (a top-five selection), Phillips is able to hold his own on the Sea Dogs.
However, I am a little worried about Phillips' skating. As one QJHML source told me, "Phillips may be better suited for wing at the next level than centre where his skating deficiencies can be hidden and his size can be better utilized." Although Minnesota does need a high-end winger on the right side (there's really no one), his lack of speed and skating is an attribute which needs to be worked on if Phillips wants to be an impact player at the NHL level. At worst he will be an AHL all-star (compared to a top-six NHL forward), but given the Wild's need for top-six talent on the big club, drafting Phillips at ten is a risk-reward proposition. However as Zack can score and he can be a good complimentary piece to Marty Havlat, he's a player I hope Chuck Fletcher takes a good look at number ten.
Dan Shrader on Zack Phillips:
Skating aside, he's got the goods to be a really good player at the NHL level. Hell, Andrew Brunette wasn't the best skater and he's carved out a nice career; while Phillips has a bit more going for him in the feet department, I don't think its off base to compare the smarts and hands to our beloved Bruno. Phillips' talent shouldn't be dismissed just because he plays for Saint John- he's got a nose for the net, and the hands too.
Phillips may have labored a bit through the Memorial Cup with a dinged up shoulder, but I think he is a serious contender for the #10 spot.
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