After a slow start to the 2019-20 season, Hershey Bears forward Philippe Maillet has raised his game and has arguably been the Bears’ best player since the turn of the new year. The emergence of Maillet has been a key component to Hershey’s run to the top of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Atlantic Division.
Much was expected of Maillet after he signed with the organization in the offseason. The Lachenaie, Quebec native was coming off a breakout season with the Ontario Reign that saw him set a career-high with 54 points, leading the Reign in assists with 38 and finishing second on the team in scoring. After the season, Maillet was brought to Chocolatetown to serve as Hershey’s second-line center and provide secondary scoring.
Bears cut T-Birds lead to 4-2 with 6-on-5 goal from Phil Maillet. pic.twitter.com/esiQaxYp1B
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) January 23, 2020
Unfortunately, the 27-year old got off to a slow start in his first season with the Bears, taking eight games before netting his first goal. During this span, Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery rotated Maillet between center and right wing, with the move to the wing failing to produce much. In mid-December, Maillet had nine points and only one multi-point game.
It was after this that Carbery put fellow offseason addition Matt Moulson on Maillet’s line, a move that was made in part because of the two players’ history with one another (Moulson played on a line with Maillet in Ontario, scoring 28 goals and recording 62 points). Carbery seemed to be banking on the two forwards finding the chemistry from last season again. The second-year bench boss’ hunch proved to be correct.
Matt Moulson to Philippe Maillet and the Bears lead 3-2. pic.twitter.com/zh2anXzlLg
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) December 22, 2019
Maillet’s performance has taken off since being placed back with Moulson. On December 22, Maillet notched his first three-point game as a Bear, assisting on both of Moulson’s goals and potting the game-winning goal in the third period in a 3-2 victory over Springfield.
Maillet would not score in his final three games in December, but would take off in the month of January, scoring five goals and dishing out 11 assists in the first month of 2020. These totals came on the heels of two, three-assist games and another three-point game. The production has continued into the month of February, as Maillet has recorded two more three-point games and now has 37 points, and is first on the team in scoring.
Phil “I did it” Maillet ties it with a 6-on-4 goal with 21 seconds left! pic.twitter.com/glJ2PpHcSP
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) January 26, 2020
The offensive output from Maillet in January and February was key for the Bears, as Hershey’s number one center and former leading scorer, Mike Sgarbossa, missed most of the month after suffering an injury against Bridgeport on January 5. Maillet has become the de facto number one center in Sgarbossa’s absence and the Bears have not missed a beat. In the game in which Sgarbossa was injured, Maillet assisted on Kody Clark’s game-winning goal and sealed the game with an empty-net goal of his own. Counting that victory, the Bears have gone 11-6-1 without Sgarbossa and the team now sits in second place in the Atlantic Division.
Phil Maillet scores his 13th of the season, ties the game 2-2. pic.twitter.com/yLL9YFLZNe
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 16, 2020
With Maillet and his line playing well, the Bears will have two top-lines once Sgarbossa returns. This will make Hershey tougher to defend and gives them a chance to make a deep run in the Calder Cup Playoffs in a few months. There’s no arguing the fact that while it took a few months, but Maillet has delivered what he was brought in to do and the Bears are a better team because of it.