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Top 25 Wild Prospects Under 25: #21 Zack Phillips

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Claus Andersen

You don't have to worry about being the only one feeling a bit disappointed by Zack Phillips. Sadly, you're in the same boat with every other Wild fan.

Zack Phillips was drafted by the Wild in 2011 after the 28th pick was acquired in the Brent Burns trade that brought Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and of course, the 2011 number 28 selection. That brings some pretty high expectations when you end up being a chip in a deal for a fan favorite.

At some point, opportunity is the only way we're really going to know. But that opportunity isn't going to come unless he earns it. -Kurt Kleinendorst

The Wild officially list him as 6' 1" 198 pounds, but that may be with all of his equipment on. The Fredericton, New Brunswick - the same province as our favorite Moose, JS Landry hails from - played for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. In his 2010-11 draft eligible year, he scored 38 goals, 57 assists, for a total of 95 points in 67 games. He was a 1.42 points per game player. He then followed it up with a 1.34 points per game season in 2011-12. However, the transition to the pros has been anything but easy going. His production plummeted as he faced older and tougher competition in the AHL.

Iowa Wild head coach Kurt Kleinendorst spoke about how big this year is for Zack in his development.

"It's a big year for him for sure. We're going to need to see some more development, and he's going to have to find a way to bridge the gap. At some point, opportunity is the only way we're really going to know. But that opportunity isn't going to come unless he earns it."

What the Scouts Say

Last summer at the 2013 annual Wild prospect development camp I had this to say about his showing:

"Zack Phillips was drafted by the Wild in 2011 in the first round (28th Overall). If you remember, he was the pick that came over in the Burns trade to San Jose along with Charlie Coyle and Devin Setoguchi. I said last year that I liked the where he was positioned on the ice because he liked to camp in front of the net, he just needed to put on weight. Apparently he needs to learn how to skate too. His first couple strides are nothing short of awful. Phillips made a really nice read at the opposing blue line to create a turnover and get a spectacular chance on net. The kid has great hands. He showed some real nice stick handling in the shootout with a dazzler. If he can get better in his own zone and improve his skating, this kid just may turn out to be a decent 3rd liner. That will remain to be seen."

Hockey's Future weighs in on Phillips:

"A cerebral offensive forward, Phillips is primarily a playmaker but is no slouch when it comes to putting the puck in the net either. Blessed with great on ice vision and loads of hockey sense, his ability to anticipate the play cannot be overstated. Only average-sized and not particularly physical, his skating also needs some work and when he doesn't keep his feet moving, it's noticeable for all the wrong reasons."

Strengths

Phillips is a goal scorer and a playmaker. He has very good puck skills and can really think the game. He likes to get to the scoring areas of the ice and make himself open to receiving the puck. There's no doubt he can play offense.

Weaknesses

Zack's skating is offensive and we should all be offended by it. It's rather unfortunate because he can make skilled plays offensively, but his skating holds back his overall ability. Then, like most high-scoring forwards from the "Q," they have to learn the defensive side of things. In Mike Yeo's system, he has to be able to trust you on the ice at all times, and Phillips showed some stubbornness  to learning on how to be a two-way forward.

Projection

Wild fans have all but forgotten Phillips as a legitimate prospect, and with other prospects graduating from Juniors or College and turning Pro, his time is beginning to run short. He will be 21 this season with a lot to prove. With his added weight and two years of pro experience, he should become a leader on the Iowa squad. It's a real long shot to make the NHL this season, but if the stars align just right, he may be considered as an injury call-up should the Wild's injury trends continue this season.