For more than three years, Luke Philp has gone about his business, providing quiet leadership and quality offensive production despite not always seeing his fair share of the spotlight.
Relative to the likes of Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, Philp has been somewhat of an unsung hero for the Kootenay Ice over the course of his time in Cranbrook.
But that’s about to change.
“Luke is not only a good hockey player, he’s a better person,” said Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, Wednesday afternoon. “Like a lot of players, they come in young boys and leave as young men. Luke is no exception to that rule.
“He’s been the leader of our hockey club on and off the ice…For three years, he’s played behind Sam Reinhart and without the fanfare that Sam or Jaedon Descheneau had. He’s quietly put up some big numbers for our hockey club and he will be expected to be a leader on our hockey club this year moving forward.”
In 225 career WHL games — all with the Ice — Philp has amassed 82 goals and 206 points.
During the 2014-15 season, he served as an alternate captain to Reinhart, and the significance of his presence rang true as he received the Players Award (MVP as voted by teammates), named team MVP and Fan Club Player of the Year.
With a team set to see significant turnover, Philp’s leadership will play an immeasurable role this season as players like Reinhart and Rinat Valiev graduate to the professional ranks.
“It’s going to be a lot younger team, I think,” Philp said over the phone from his home in Canmore Wednesday afternoon. “There’s lots of roster spots open. It looks like different guys are going to be coming in.
“It’s pretty exciting to be a leader in that situation. Obviously, it might be a little challenging at the start with a younger squad, but I think we can work to become a good team.”
Flash back to 2014.
Reinhart, Descheneau, Tanner Faith and Rinat Valiev all end up selected at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Meanwhile, Philp is left untouched in his first year of eligibility, despite a stellar 31-goal, 77-point season with the Ice.
“I really thought he was going to get drafted late, two years ago in Philadelphia [at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft],” Chynoweth said.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t.”
Despite going unselected, Philp didn’t go unnoticed by NHL scouts.
In September 2014, the Canmore, Alta., native attended rookie camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs before returning to Cranbrook where he posted a career high 82 points in 71 games with the Ice.
Despite once again putting up career numbers, Philp was dealt a hand of disappointment for the second consecutive season as he was passed over at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Florida.
Blending speed, agility, soft hands and a strong work ethic, Philp’s efforts did earn him a summer invite to Philadelphia Flyers Development Camp from July 7 to 12 in Voorhees, N.J.
Flyers’ brass liked enough of what they saw from the 5-foot-10, 181-pound pivot that he earned himself an invite to the team’s rookie camp this September, with an opportunity to further sell his skills to a team looking to build depth within its organization.
“The Flyers contacted me before the [2015 NHL] draft saying they were interested in me,” Philp said. “If I slipped through the draft they said they’d really want me to come to camp. It’s nice they’ve shown a lot of interest. I’m pretty excited for the opportunity.
“Rookie camp last year in Toronto, you were kind of thrown right into the fire playing games and stuff like that. The [Flyers] summer development camp was…not as intense, so to speak. I’m expecting [rookie camp] to be a lot more intense because guys are competing for spots on rosters.”
Philp is set to depart for Philadelphia on Sept. 12, and he isn’t the only Kootenay Ice affiliated player headed for professional opportunities this fall.
Descheneau (St. Louis Blues), Faith (Minnesota Wild), Reinhart and Valiev (Toronto Maple Leafs) are set to attend their respective NHL training camps, while another 20-year-old, Jon Martin, attends Vancouver Canucks rookie camp on a try-out basis.
Before his trip to the big show, Philp will report to the Kootenay Ice, where fitness testing is scheduled for Aug. 30 and training camp officially opens Aug. 31.
“Luke Philp will be one of the premier 20-year-olds in the Western Hockey League this year,” Chynoweth said. “Obviously a lot of people will be looking at him for a free agent contract if he continues to put up the numbers he has in the past.
“Hopefully it’s a case where he continues knocking down those doors and gets an opportunity.”
Interview audio: Luke Philp, Kootenay Ice