Noah Philp had a pretty big name to live up to when he joined the Kootenay Ice as a 17-year-old rookie to start the 2015-16 campaign. Older brother Luke was already entering his fourth full season with the club and had lead the team in scoring with 82 points the previous season.
With 22 points to his credit, the 6-foot-1, 174-pound native of Canmore, Alta., was named rookie of the year for the club, ensuring a strong start to a Western Hockey League career that has plenty left ahead of it.
“It was a big accomplishment, for me, especially coming off a bit of a disappointing year last year in Junior A,” Philp said following his exit meeting with coaches and management. “It was a confidence boost, for sure, but I don’t think it changes anything. I still have to come back and be better than I was this year.”
Philp’s first year of junior hockey saw him skate in 31 games with his hometown Canmore Eagles of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where he managed one goal and three points.
Totalling six goals and 22 points through 67 major junior games serves as a remarkable improvement upon his Junior A numbers.
While the end of the season reflects well upon the younger Philp brother, it wasn’t so bright and shiny early on.
“Open yourself up to coaching — early on, [Philp] was a little bit resistant,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice. “He had an idea of the way he should play the game and was resistant, at times, to change who he was and how he played.
“Towards the end of the year, he started to really buy into some areas that he can improve. That has to continue for him.”
As nice as the offence is, the young pivot already has his sights set on improving his two-way game heading into his sophomore season.
“I was talking with the coaches — plus-minus is a big thing for me and I didn’t have a very good one,” Philp said of his minus-38 rating this season.
“I’d really like to improve my plus-minus and see if I can outscore myself [next season].”
The minus-38 rating for Philp, believe it or not, wasn’t the worst on a Kootenay Ice squad that surrendered 165 goals more than it scored. River Beattie rolled in with a team-worst minus-48, while Vince Loschiavo (minus-47) and Troy Murray (minus-39) also found themselves below Philp on the list.
Factoring injuries into the equation and the type of minutes the young Philp was forced to play, particularly early on, it’s tough to place all the blame on the rookie for that rather large number.
As one of 10 first-year players on a team that only managed 155 goals for in 2015-16, Philp’s desire to outscore himself comes as welcome words.
“We can’t afford to have [sophomore struggles] with Noah,” Pierce said. “At the same time, we can’t set the expectation for Noah to be a 25-goal scorer. He had a decent year with plenty of opportunity, but he needs to be a more complete player away from the puck.
“We’re really trying to focus on improving him as a whole, not necessarily focusing on just output. The output stuff with come for him, but he needs to be a really strong two-way guy that understands sacrifice sometimes for the betterment of our overall team.”
Betterment of the overall team is the first goal Philp mentions when asked what he wants to achieve next season.
After a 12-53-6-1 campaign that saw the Kootenay Ice miss the post-season for the first time since 1997-98, there’s nothing Philp wants more than to be back in the race come 2016-17.
“Team goal would be, for sure, to make the playoffs and go somewhere with it,” Philp said. “That’s always what you’re looking to do.
“We’ve got to be harder to play against if we’re not going to be the most skilled team. We definitely have to be one that is a pain for other teams to match up against. That’s something we really need to work on.”