The Long, Winding Road of Nicholas Aube-Kubel

When an organization drafts a player into the NHL, they hope to see that player take strides and make it to the big club within a few years. But sometimes that’s not always the case. When the Flyers drafted Val-d’Or Foreurs forward Nicholas Aube-Kubel 48th overall in 2014, they had no idea the journey they were about to take.

He agreed to an entry-level contract the fall after he was drafted despite being returned to his junior team for the 2014-15 season. Aube-Kubel proceeded to post a new high of 38 goals and 80 points, a number he’d again break the following season when he recorded 38 goals and 84 points during his last junior campaign. He made his AHL debut on April 4, 2016 after the Foreurs season came to an end and posted two goals and one assist in six games.

The 2016-17 season was his first full pro year and it didn’t exactly go as planned. With a huge scoring potential to live up to from his junior career, Aube-Kubel recorded just nine goals and 18 points in 71 games for the Phantoms. The then-21-year-old looked lost and bound to go down a path of shortfall. However, during his sophomore season with the Phantoms, Aube-Kubel came out of his shell. His two-way game improved and he started to find his place on the score sheet with some regularity. Finishing the regular season with 18 goals and 46 points, the otherwise successful campaign was tainted with a string of three suspensions late in the season. Two in March and one in the first round of the playoffs, he gained a bit of a nasty reputation for his frequent, reckless hits.

He tried to put the mistakes of the past season behind him during the 2018-19 preseason with the Flyers, where he ultimately became one of the last players to get cut from the main roster. Bound to join the Phantoms for the third straight season, his two-way play again improved, becoming a relied upon penalty killer. His point totals dipped a bit, finishing with 16 goals and 30 points. His play did draw the eye of the Flyers brass and he received his first NHL call up on October 30, 2018. Though under the watchful eye of head coach Dave Hakstol, he regularly saw five of less minutes of ice time during his nine-game call up that lasted until November 17. The Phantoms missed the playoffs by five points and the Flyers missed by 16 points.

Entering camp in 2019-20 was a rinse and repeat of the previous year, hanging around until the end before ultimately being sent back down to the Phantoms to start the season. Discouraged by the demotion, Aube-Kubel’s AHL start was anything but great. A regular penalty-killer, his role elsewhere was diminished as his play was at a standstill. Though that didn’t stop the new Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher from giving him one more chance with the big club.

Recalled by the Flyers for the second time in his career, He re-joined the Flyers on December 15, 2019 and seized the opportunity. Becoming known for his speed, physicality, and energy he brought to the Flyers bottom six, Aube-Kubel looked reborn on the ice. Even managing to tack on seven goals and 15 points, he spent the rest of the season on the Flyers roster, all 36 games.

When the NHL season was suspended and restarted later in the hub city bubble, Aube-Kubel picked up right where he left off for the 2020 Flyers playoff run. He has played in every game so far, even scoring two goals against Tampa Bay during the round robin, six years and 2,227 days after he was drafted by the Flyers.

In a contract year, expect the Flyers to give Aube-Kubel a healthy raise from his current 700,000 cap hit. But after a player has put as much blood, sweat, and tears into making the NHL as NAK has, he has earned every penny he is about to get, and with any luck, the best is yet to come for Nicholas Aube-Kubel.

 

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: philadelphia.cbslocal.com

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