Nicolas Aube-Kubel wrapped up his season, and three-year career, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Val-d’Or Foreurs last spring. Before taking off for the summer, though, the Flyers prospect got a mini preview of what the next step in his career is going to look like.
He spent six games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League, which was his first taste of professional hockey.
“It was a good thing I got to play those couple of games last year because it really helped me out,” Aube-Kubel said during the Flyers development camp in early July. “It showed me that I needed to work hard in the summer, and I know what to expect next year. It was very valuable.”
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Since Aube-Kubel turned 20 in May, he is no longer eligible to play in Juniors and Lehigh Valley appears as his next destination. It’s a major jump for players to make going from Juniors to the AHL. The players are older, stronger, faster and on a different talent level in the AHL.
“With anyone coming from Juniors or Europe, they don’t know much about the American League, but they quickly realize it’s a good league with good players,” said Kjell Samuelsson, who is a former Phantoms coach and was one of the coaches at the development camp. “They are going up against men and some players who have played 150 games or more in the NHL. Guys like Nicolas can learn a lot playing against that kind of competition and being teammates with guys with that kind of experience.”
Aube-Kubel knows his success will hinge just as much on his mental approach as his physical abilities.
“Everybody talks about being a professional is a huge step,” Aube-Kubel said. “The biggest step is to think and act like a pro. It’s about eating and sleeping right and other things like that. The coaches here [at the development camp] are always teaching us how to be a pro.”
Aube-Kubel will be an interesting player to watch in the Flyers system. The 2014 second-round draft pick finished with 38 points and 42 assists in 61 games last year with Val-d’Or and added two goals and an assist with the Phantoms.
After Travis Konecny, the team’s 2015 first round draft pick who has the potential to make the Flyers roster out of training camp, there isn’t much offensive depth in the organization. With a standout year with the Phantoms, Aube-Kubel knows he might not be that far away from the next step in his professional career.
“I think that if I prove myself with the Phantoms, I will get a chance to prove myself in the NHL,” the Sorel, Quebec native said. “There are a lot of players and prospects with the Flyers. I need to work hard to be better.”