Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown continues, and this week you’ll see some of these players in action! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 5, 2017, when the 2017-18 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our fifth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Another new face comes in at #14: Markus Phillips.
2016-17 Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 60 GP, 13 G, 30 A, 43 P
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 5 G, 13 A, 18 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 15
Jewels Staff Ranking: 14
As we begin to approach the halfway mark of our countdown, we arrive at our first player projecting as more than just a depth player in the Kings’ system. Though some predictions had him going as high as the late-second round, the Kings were able to snag Markus Phillips with their fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Any scouting report you find on the left-shot defenseman will start with a gushing assessment of his skating, a skill many scouts rated as one of the very best in the draft. He was also described as one of the best passers in the OHL, both in the offensive zone and when starting breakouts in his own end. He possesses a hard shot from the point and is not shy about joining the rush. His 13 goals across 66 games last year bested his points in total from his previous year with Owen Sound.
While not especially tall for a defenseman, his well-built frame keeps him sturdy on his skates, allowing him to brush off defenders and protect the puck. Aside from his skills on the ice, he also notched some intangible points, being named captain of Team Canada at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, in addition to representing Canada at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship. The prior year saw him captain the Toronto Titans Minor Midget AAA club to a GTHL Kraft Cup championship.
In the defensive end, he has an active stick and was one of the Attack’s go-to penalty killers. He utilizes his speed to close the gap on opposing players and became more adept at winning puck battles as the season progressed. He has received some mild criticism for mental mistakes and turnovers, though that is not especially concerning when discussing a teenager playing in his second season in the OHL.
With his pronounced physical tools and leadership qualities, the Kings were undoubtedly fortunate to corral Phillips. Even then, they waited until the fourth round, selecting non-rated goaltender Matt Villalta one round earlier. It makes one wonder why every team passed over a player that many scouts and prospect hounds saw as a top-50 North American skater.
Perhaps it is his relative lack of size, coupled with the fact that most of his production came in the second half of last season. He does not have the pedigree of a first round selection and his offensive ceiling would seem to be rather low, should he make it to the NHL. Still, a puck-moving defenseman with elite skating is gold in today’s NHL. If he continues to improve his defensive game, he projects as a second-pairing defenseman.
Phillips will likely return to the Owen Sound this season and his continued development will be worth monitoring. Considering the Kings’ penchant for turning un-signed and late-round defensemen into capable NHL blue liners, a player with raw tools like Phillips — in addition to the highly-touted Gabriel Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan — has the potential to make the 2017 draft the one that brought the Kings’ system back to respectability.