Our seventh annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
Out of sight, out mind. That cliché could be attached to the reason Markus Phillips has slid from 14 two years ago to consecutive finishes at 25. Being underestimated at the pro level isn’t new to Phillips. The Kings felt like they stole him in 2017 with the 118th pick after ranking 51st in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings.
Whatever the reason his Q rating has slipped, the Los Angeles Kings think much higher about the prospects of future success from the left-shot defenseman. Prior to the OHL championship, the club announced they had signed Phillips to a three-year entry-level contract.
A fourth round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Phillips has steadily enhanced his defensive zone play. His stock has rose in turn with the Kings seeing a clear path for him to hit the NHL ice regularly. His play wasn’t lost on the international scene as he earned a late invitation from Canada’s world junior team and eventually secured a spot on last season’s team.
The six-foot, 200-pound Phillips once described as a two-way player as a nice ode to the fact that his defensive game needed vast improvement has shown a continued evolution over the last two seasons. Now termed as a defend-first defender, he looks to make the leap to the AHL after a successful run in the OHL in which the Storm took home the league championship.
Here’s what a NHL scout had to say about his evolution (by way of Jon Rosen):
“His use of skating is much better,” the scout said. “More physical and harder to play against. Accepted defensive responsibility and plays big minutes against top players. He had a solid showing in the Canada Russia, series as well.”
Where and how Phillips fits on the Ontario Reign landscape remains to be seen. There’s a full-blown legion of defensemen ready to descend on Southern California’s Inland Empire to fight for the six main D-spots this season: Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Daniel Brickley, Kale Clague, Paul LaDue, Kurtis MacDermid, Chaz Reddekopp, Matt Roy, Austin Strand, and Sean Walker. Some will wind up on the big club, while some will reign on the AHL blueline.
Also, it’s important to remember that, while it’s not likely to happen, Phillips is eligible to play a final year in the OHL (he’s still 20), while LaDue and MacDermid will need to clear waivers in order to be assigned the AHL.
THE VOTING—Readers and Writers:
SIX DRAFT PICKS?
This has to be a record, right?
“Markus is an excellent addition to our back end,” says OHL Champion Guelph Storm General Manager / Head Coach George Burnett. “He plays heavy minutes in every situation, and is one of the premier all-around defensemen in our league.”
A first round pick of Owen Sound in 2015, @mphillips_18 joined the Storm in January bringing nothing but genuine class and professionalism.— Guelph Storm (@Storm_City) June 18, 2019
His steady confidence on the blueline and subtle leadership on and off the ice helped us make history.
Thank you, Markus. pic.twitter.com/TQJAQPjtLr