Tuesday afternoon saw news break of Nicolas Aube-Kubel re-signing with the Flyers. His contract is a two-way contract, worth $700,000 in the NHL and $85,000 in the AHL.
On the surface, this deal makes total sense. Aube-Kubel is coming off a season where he played 54 AHL games and tallied 30 points. He was the eighth-highest scorer on the Phantoms. Additionally, he is one year removed from a 46 point campaign. This was good enough for third on the Phantoms that year.
You dig a little deeper, and you find that there are a few options for the 23-year-old winger. Aube-Kubel got his first taste of the NHL this past year. He debuted on October 30th of 2018 against the Anaheim Ducks. In nine NHL games, he has zero points.
What does stick out about Aube-Kubel is that, according to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms official website, he ranks in the top-10 in every offensive category with the team. He’s sixth in goals with 45, 10th in assists with 52, and sixth in penalty minutes with 216.
So where does NAK fit in the Flyers organization?
There are a few options on the table for Aube-Kubel. For starters, he could simply return to Lehigh Valley and assume somewhat of a mentor role to players like Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost. With such an influx of young talent turning pro, the Phantoms will need some veterans to steer them in the right direction. Aube-Kubel certainly fits the mold.
If Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault see Aube-Kubel as ready for the next step, he’s NHL bound.
If NAK gets the call-up, where he plays isn’t set-in-stone. Sure, the Flyers have a hole to fill on the third line. They need a winger opposite of Oskar Lindblom and next to Nolan Patrick. Aube-Kubel could slide into that 3rd line winger position if Vigneault wants the more battle-tested option over the flashy rookie options he has in Farabee and Frost.
If a player like Frost of Farabee takes the spot on the third line, Aube-Kubel could find himself as the 13th forward with the possibility of sliding into the lineup on the fourth line. It’s not the most appealing option. Ideally, you’d like to see a player like Aube-Kubel on the ice instead of sitting in the press box. However, an opportunity will likely come along, and NAK will be first in line as that 13th forward.
Realistically, Aube-Kubel will find himself back down in Lehigh Valley, seeing the ice on a consistent basis. Putting him in the press box won’t do him any favors. Neither will throwing him to the wolves in the NHL if he isn’t ready yet. Aube-Kubel is right at home with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and may end up being lost in the shuffle if he gets thrust into the spotlight with the Flyers.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports