“I’m going to keep working, keep improving and be ready to step in for a chance if I get the call,” Philp said.
Playing for the California-based Heat, affiliate team of the Flames, in the American Hockey League (AHL), the 24-year-old rookie has 15 goals and 23 points in 33 games, which is first in points for Heat rookies and tied for 10th overall among all AHL rookies.
Since Nov. 30, in 16 games, Philp is averaging a point per game with 11 goals and five helpers.
The production of the first-year Heat player, who “quietly goes about his business,” has even caught Heat head coach Cail MacLean off guard.
“I wasn’t looking at him to breakout and score at such a rate,” said MacLean. “He’s an intelligent player on the ice, always shoots the puck, and he moves his feet well at a good, high pace – he makes the game easier on you [and] he’s a threat in every game we play.”
On offence, Philp is good at escaping pressure defences and getting the puck out of corners, and he has a growing notoriety for getting shots on net from virtually anywhere on the attack.
“Luke will score some from random places because it’s one-timed and goalies are not in position yet,” MacLean said.
#CalgaryFlames prospect Luke Philp on always being ready to shoot:"That’s something I developed in my game ... and it has transitioned to the pro level and allowed me to catch goalies off guard."The #Canmore centre has 3 GWG, tied for 1st among AHL rookies. @lukephilp @AHLHeat— Jordan Small (@jordiesmall) January 15, 2020
Philp spent three seasons with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he expanded his playmaking and scoring unpredictability, which helped in his nod as the 2019 U-Sports Player of the Year.
“I think that’s something I developed in my game over the last couple years and it has transitioned to the pro level and allowed me to catch goalies off guard,” Philp said.
In other AHL rookie categories, Philp is tied for first in game winners (3), and is tied for third in goals, fourth overall in power play goals (5) and shooting per centage (26.3), and seventh in plus/minus rating (10).
Philp said he’s pleased with the stats so far, but has more to give.
Last March, Philp signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Flames that began this season. After trying out for the Flames in September, he was sent to the Heat for development.
“I was hoping to make the [Flames], but being sent down to Stockton, it’s not a negative thing,” Philp said. “It’s a place where you can improve your game and continue to improve as a player and try to achieve goals and make it to the NHL.”
The Flames “keep close tabs on how Luke and all prospects are doing here,” said MacLean.
He thinks Philp needs to continue bringing a “dynamic brand of hockey” to the table.
“For me, the big thing, he’s a good player, but he’s a good pro,” MacLean said. “He’s done a good job working really hard at it and is open to learning and is handling those steps with maturity.”
Spoke w/ Cail MacLean, head coach of the AHL's #StocktonHeat, about #CalgaryFlames prospect Luke Philp. He said the rookie from #Canmore is a "threat in every game we play.” Philp has 11 goals in his last 16 games. My story will be out Thursday. @AHLHeat @lukephilp— Jordan Small (@jordiesmall) January 15, 2020
The move from university hockey to pro hockey was definitely something that “didn’t exactly click right away” for Philp. He said he needed about nine or 10 games with reduced minutes to find his stride.
“No matter how ready I felt to play pro, it’s another level down here,” Philp said. “The game moves quicker, the puck moves quicker and guys are stronger. You gotta adjust to make plays quicker and constantly be thinking on your feet before making a play.”
MacLean was impressed with how quickly Philp adapted his game, which has helped the Heat sit comfortably in third place in the Western Conference with 51 points.
“He’s very coachable and hard working,” MacLean said. “Those are two points he has that are excellent qualities … from this level to the NHL level, if you don’t have the work ethic and drive, you’re not going to go.”