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Ethan Phillips: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Diminutive Forward with Potential

Today, come check out a forward playing in the USHL who had a stellar season and shot up the rankings a ton. He could have pushed himself into a mid-rounder this year because of it.

Ethan Phillips is of a rarer breed: he is a Canadian forward, which is not rare at all of course, hailing from Nova Scotia. However, after the 2015-16 season, he moved to play his junior hockey in the United States. A Canadian, playing their junior hockey leading up to their draft year in the States. Interesting indeed. This past season, he played in the USHL for Sioux Falls, and in the fall has committed to the NCAA route, committing to Boston University. Again, not a likely route for a Canadian, but one that could be successful.

Phillips is a small forward (not the basketball term), listed on Elite Prospects as standing 5’9” and weighing only 146 pounds. That could pose a problem when he begins his collegiate career, as he will be playing against seniors much larger. However, it is not impossible to succeed as a smaller, quick forward who is also gritty. As to whether he can be that, let’s take a further look.

Who is Ethan Phillips?


At the start of the 2018-19 season, Phillips was still playing in midget hockey. He produced 19 points in 21 games there before finally getting the call up to play in the USHL, which in terms of his route, was necessary for him to get experience there to become a quality draft eligible prospect. And even better for him, he did quite well there. For Sioux Falls, across 50 games, he produced 43 points, 16 coming as goals. He also played very well in the playoffs for them, potting a goal and adding four assists in 6 games en route to a Sioux Falls championship. He only played in half of their playoff games, but when in there, he was highly effective.

Being as this is his one season of experience beyond midget, he needed to produce quality numbers to get considered strongly, and he did do just that, and did so in a big way. 43 points in 50 games in the USHL is no joke, and for a 17/18 year old who is draft eligible, is good for a mid-round choice. It is certain that this strong year has put him on the map in a big way.

A nice boost for Phillips was that he was named MVP in the 2019 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, when he scored a goal and an assist for the West in their 5-3 victory over the East. Considering he did not play his junior hockey in the more popular and noticeable CHL leagues, gaining any accolades he could from playing in the USHL is vital, and this certainly helped. He does not have any major international experience either, last playing for Nova Scotia in 2016-17, and never playing for Team Canada.

Where is Phillips Ranked?

Central Scouting ranks Phillips as the #78 North American skater entering the draft, which is a strong number I would think. It is up from #91 in the preseason rankings, a good move up the board and indicative of his strong season.

-Future Considerations, in their top 100, has Phillips at #78, a third round choice, which is very, very good.

-With The Draft Analyst, you can really see how far Phillips has come. Before this season, Steve had him ranked #222, before he made the jump to the USHL. Now, he is ranked #56. What an incredible move up the board, and is indicative of how strong a year he had. This is his highest ranking around.

-The Hockey Writers, in their May rankings, has him at #108, a little lower than the others on this list so far, but not a bad ranking by any means.

-Draft Site is lower on him than the others, having him projected to be drafted 132nd overall to Anaheim, an early 5th rounder.

What Others Have Said About Phillips

Despite his decent rankings, there are no pure prospect profiles out there that I can find about Phillips. The dearth of proper free analysis out there is most likely due to his quick rise up the rankings thanks to his great season in Sioux Falls. He might not have been on too many radars before the season started.

Luckily, The Hockey News literally published a piece on Phillips as I was writing this profile, providing a little more of an in depth look at the prospect. RIght out of the gate, the author, Ryan Kennedy, calls Ethan “a player in the 2019 draft who could outperform his draft number.” Clearly this is a positive dive into the player and his game. On his college route, as opposed to joining the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL (a team he was drafted to, but chose not to join), Ethan said “I had always wanted to go to college from a young age...the NCAA is what I wanted to do.” This is despite the rather fun fact that his family housed Nico Hischier during his time playing for Halifax, and he got to see the success Nico had going that route.

In terms of combine tests, Phillips scored quite well on the Wingate bike test, which measures a player’s fatigue index. As a small player, having a strong showing in a test like this is apparently a big deal according to the article, and it makes sense. He can play out on the ice longer before needing to hit the bench, and when caught on long shifts, he can hold his own if need be.

One quote from a scout on Phillips’ game: “He’s really good, he’s a small energy-type player with quick feet and great edges. A playmaker who plays through traffic and makes defenders miss.”

A Little Video

Sadly, YouTube does not have any highlight clips or other videos I can find of him playing for Sioux Falls this season. If you know where to find any, please link to them in the comments, I would appreciate that. Other videos, however, are up there:

The Devils’ own Amanda Stein interviewed Ethan Phillips at the combine this year. Here that is:

Here he is attending Mooseheads camp despite as we know eventually going to play in the USHL:

My Take

It is definitely harder to generate a strong take on someone who is not as widely scouted and analyzed by pundits, and who I cannot find any true game tape on from YouTube. To say that I can come to a definitive conclusion one way or another is tough. What I can say is this, however: his season with Sioux Falls was definitely exceptional, and his steep rise up the rankings is deserved because of it. If this past season was his breakout year, and he continues to perform at a high level like that, he could definitely outperform his draft position as the Hockey News wrote.

However, on the other side, he is a diminutive forward, and while that does not mean too much about his ability to succeed moving forward, it is also not a real area of need for the New Jersey Devils. They need defense, defense, defense first and foremost. Right wing and scoring are definitely up there as well, and Phillips can provide scoring, so he is not entirely unneeded. That would be an exaggeration to say so. However, if the rankings are indicative of where he might go, the Devils would need to look to take this kid anywhere from the end of the third through the end of the fourth. An early 5th is probably too much to ask in having him drop that far, but it would be a minimal risk to take on a player like this who has potential to succeed above that draft choice. A third rounder, however, is a lot more to give up. If someone else takes him in the third, then so be it, but I would probably hope Shero waits until the fourth. I hope he proves me wrong and plays well above where even a third would be expected to produce, but without more information and tape for me to see, I cannot really be too much more excited than that. His season this year says a third rounder is not unwarranted and don’t be surprised to see him go there, and Boston University is a good school, and he will definitely improve his game playing there. But you never know one way or another. If Shero goes defense heavy at this area of the draft instead, I would probably feel better.

Your Take

Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Ethan Phillips? Do you have any game tape or more information to share about the Canadian playing for Boston University in the fall? Do you think his size is something to be scared of, or not at all? Where do you expect to see him go in the draft? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!