The NHL draft today and Saturday in Buffalo will pretty much size it up for five-foot-six WHL rookie sensation Matthew Phillips, who is the highest-ranked Victoria Royals player at No. 81 among North American skaters.
“Some [NHL] teams may have an issue with my size, some might look past it and see that smaller players are making a difference in the game,” said Phillips.
He led all WHL rookies with 37 goals and 76 points while establishing new Royals franchise records on both accounts.
“The game is changing and some teams are not afraid of the size factor,” added Phillips. “It’s cool to see I’ve progressed to the point where I put myself in the discussion for the draft.”
Royals forwards Tyler Soy and Vladimir Bobylev are ranked 150th and 203rd, respectively. The latter is a six-foot-two Russian, who was a steal in the import draft for Victoria, scoring 28 goals with 67 points.
The 19-year-old Soy, meanwhile, is re-entering the draft in his second year of eligibility after being bypassed in the 2015 NHL draft. But that was before he scored 46 goals this season.
“I’m more relaxed this time around, having already gone through it last year,” said Soy.
“[Even if overlooked again], I feel I will at least get an NHL training camp invite.”
But Soy admits he wants to go through the front door.
“As kids growing up, you dream of being drafted,” he said. “It would be special for me and my family.”
The top-ranked Island player for the draft is six-foot-three defenceman Josh Anderson from Duncan. He was restricted to just 39 games this past season for the Prince George Cougars, but scouts looked past that to project his potential and have ranked him No. 60. Tri-City Americans defenceman Dylan Coghlan of Nanaimo is ranked No. 155, Tri-City forward Jordan Topping from Salt Spring Island, who had a breakout 33 goals for the Americans, is No. 176, and Portland Winterhawks defenceman Brendan De Jong of Victoria No. 188.