You are going to like the Penguins third round draft choice, Clayton Phillips. He likes Kris Letang, too.
There is some disagreement between the Penguins third round draft choice and the Penguins Director of Scouting, Randy Sexton. Sexton believes Phillips is a defensive defenseman who is able to sprinkle offense into his game. Phillips, who beamed with the joy befitting a 17 year old kid who was drafted by the 2-time defending Stanley Cup champions, said he modeled his game after Kris Letang.
Phillips’ joy and laughter at the media podium was the highlight of the day for the Penguins. The converted forward was high on the Penguins draft board and General Manager Jim Rutherford admitted either of the Penguins top two choices, defenseman Zachary Lauzon and Phillips, could have been selected with the Penguins first choice at #31.
In fact, Lauzon was rated by Central Scouting at #143. Phillips at #99.
Phillips’ look to Letang is not without parallel. Both are small stature defensemen drafted in the third round who move well. At just 17 years old, Phillips figures to keep growing (up and out). In Letang’s first full year in the QMJHL (Val d’Or Foreurs), he had just 32 points in 70 games. In Phillips first year in the USHL (Fargo Force), he registered 20 points in 56 games.
Sexton’s description of Phillips also sounds like Letang, “Clayton has some offense to his game, but again highly mobile. He can really skate. He’s got terrific vision. A really solid puck mover; Both (Zach Lauzon) and Clayton will have more of an offensive role on their team next year…”
As Phillips continues growing, he could begin to push 200 pounds, about the same size as Letang.
Phillips was converted from a forward in high school, “Funny story,” he said. Phillips played defense in summer leagues, but played forward for his teams. He asked his coach, “which line should I hop in?” his coach replied, “the D-line”. And that was that. (I agree, it’s not that funny, but the kid told the story with such amusement it was hard not to smile.)
Phillips was one of four defensemen taken by the Penguins in the 2017 draft. Given a blue-line devoid of prospects at the AHL level, it certainly was not a bad strategy.
Next season, Phillips will play college hockey for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. One of his assistant coaches will be Mike Guentzel–father of Jake Guentzel. So, the Penguins also figure to have a good set of eyes on their brand new bouncing baby boy.
If he gets here, you’re going to like him, too.