It is no secret that Nicolas Aube-Kubel struggled through a disappointing rookie season last year. His first pro year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms was not one to remember. In 71 games, Aube-Kubel produced nine goals and nine assists. Due to that, a huge bounce-back season was in order.
Aube-Kubel was coming off his second 80-point season with the Val-d-Or Foreurs of the QMJHL. He collected 38 goals and 46 assists in his last season. Before that, he had 38 goals and 42 assists.
There was nothing alarming about his first season. However, when it came to GM Ron Hextall.
“I know he can play better than he did last year, and I expect him to play better. … three months from now, Nic could be knocking on the door for a call-up. Who knows? I don’t know that.” Hextall said back in September. “Assuming he doesn’t make our team here, he’s got to go down there and get better every day, but he’s a good prospect.”
Hextall also mentioned that no one was talking about Nicolas Aube-Kubel. 43 games into his second season, and now everyone is. He surpassed his offensive production from last season in only his 38th game this year.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel Playing With Confidence
Aube-Kubel knew that his first season did not go well and he wasn’t afraid to admit about the learning curve he went through.
“My junior years were a lot of points, a lot of goals. Last year didn’t translate that well, and I had to learn a lot about the pro hockey game.” Aube-Kubel said. “Guys are bigger, guys are faster. I learned a lot last year, and I hope it will translate into a good year this year.”
It is a normal transition for most hockey players turning pro. They learn that the game is harder and faster than what they have played before. Aube-Kubel knew what he was going to be up against. Also, he used that first pro season as a way to improve his game.
This season Aube-Kubel ranks fifth on the Phantoms in points. His 12 goals are tied with Oskar Lindblom for third best. His 15 assists rank seventh on the team. This is a huge step from where he was last season. While he finished 15th on the team in points last season, all but one player below him appeared in fewer games. The closest player to his 71 games played was Robert Hagg with 58 games.
Aube-Kubel continued his high pace of play and was a big part of the Phantoms 5-2 victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night. Down 1-0 in the first, Aube-Kubel fired a spinning shot from just above the left circle. It deflected off of Greg Carey‘s stick and into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Greg Carey redirects Aube-Kubel's shot and scores! pic.twitter.com/UcGNkua9Zr
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 27, 2018
Aube-Kubel was not done yet as he would take matters into his own later on in the first period. Down 2-1, Aube-Kubel sliced his way through the defensive zone and around Andrey Pedan to notch his 12th goal of the season.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel with a terrific individual effort for the backhand finish! pic.twitter.com/1BWidBImGr
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) January 27, 2018
Aube-Kubel added an insurance goal late in the third period to finish the game with two goals and an assist. His name was all over the scoresheet in the victory. He was also named the second star of the night.
Ask Aube-Kubel about his game this season and he credits it to one thing: Confidence.
“It comes with confidence. I was playing well. When you get some points and score some goals, it keeps growing. And I think I’m in a good spot right now.”
And even though Aube-Kubel scored two goals, he wouldn’t go on to say this was his best game.
“Yeah, for sure I scored two goals but it’s not all about that. Some games I finish checks, I’ve been better defensively. So I’m not sure which one is the best game, but it feels good to score two goals.”
Talk to head coach Scott Gordon and he had a bit different to say when it came to Aube-Kubel’s confidence level.
“I mean it’s confidence, but confidence comes from working hard. Confidence comes from paying attention to details. In hockey, battling and compete, it’s amazing how much more confidence you have.” Coach Gordon said. “You’re dishing it out instead of receiving and that’s the way he’s played. He finishes checks, he’s a hard check as far as for the opposition to be able to get the puck…him separated from the puck. It’s not that the talent wasn’t there. It was a question of when is he going to put it all together.”
With the way Aube-Kubel has been playing this season, confidence is certainly one way that you could describe the way that he has been playing. A call-up to the NHL may be in the distance. With the Philadelphia Flyers fighting for a playoff spot. Nicolas Aube-Kubel could make that decision harder.
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