In the 2019-20 season, Nic Aube-Kubel took the Flyers by storm and has since become a bottom-six staple. Unfortunately, his 2020 season was a forgettable one, but his road to redemption may run through the special teams units.
After earning a consistent spot on the team in 2019, NAK put up 15 points in 36 games before enjoying a very solid bubble performance. In 2021, his production tailed off massively as a reliant on his physical traits often led him into the penalty box. He ended the year with 12 points in 50 games and 44 penalty minutes. His aggressiveness definitely helped a fledgling Flyers offense to find an identity and sparked some intense play from his teammates, but it came at the expense of unnecessary penalties.
The good news is that Alain Vigneault has a plan for how to get NAK back to his best in 2021-22:
I would like to have that in my repertoire [special teams]. Great skater. Hard on the puck. Came to camp in phenomenal shape. He’s one of our best conditioned athletes, so there’s no doubt that he took this summer very seriously for himself and for his career. In Kubes’ case, I think he’s in that bottom six forwards. If you can find a couple of extra minutes by either playing the power play or killing, they’re huge for your ice distribution. Staying fresh and making sure that everybody’s got a roll. If we could do that with Kube, it’s something that I would definitely be happy about.– Alain Vigneault
It’s nice to hear that all of NAK’s hard work paid off. During the offseason, he started working out at a new gym in Montreal with notable names including Anthony Beauvillier And Marco Scandella. Coming into training camp with a refreshed mindset, Aube-Kubel embraces the idea of establishing a role on the PK unit.
Yeah, it’s a role I really want to have this year. I had a few touches last year but nothing crazy. I really want to have that role this year and get better every day.– Nic Aube-Kubel
As the 25-year-old mentioned, he didn’t really play much of a role on special teams last year. His TOI for short-handed play sat at 2.6 minutes, down from 6.5 in 2019-20. He featured in 32 minutes of PP action that season, amassing 3 points. He featured in only 8 one year later.
Now in the final year of a 2-year deal, NAK has to prove that he can not only limit the penalties, but find a way to re-ignite that fire that burned in the 2019-20 campaign if he is to cement his future on the team as a bottom-six forward. Carving out a role on special teams will certainly help that, and an increased level of discipline would assuredly follow given that any unnecessary mistake would be amplified.
All signs are pointing towards some increased exposure on the PK unit for Nic Aube-Kubel. Here’s to hoping we see a revival in form as a result.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre