EDMONTON, Alberta — Recently called-up Blackhawks forward Luke Philp might not be well-known in Chicago, but he has been the most popular man in Alberta this week.
The storyline does feel movie-scripted, after all. His Albertan connections are endless. He grew up in Canmore, a mountain town west of Calgary, and finished his Canadian junior-hockey career in Red Deer, a city halfway between Calgary and Edmonton.
The undersized 5-10, 181-pound center wasn’t drafted into the NHL and instead played three years of Canadian collegiate hockey at the University of Alberta, located in Edmonton. He then signed with the Flames and spent three years with their AHL affiliate.
Philp signed in the Hawks’ organization this season, correctly believing NHL opportunities would be easier to come by with them, and dominated throughout the fall with Rockford, tallying 30 points in 31 games.
He earned his first-ever NHL call-up Monday — at age 27 — after Tyler Johnson’s ankle injury and debuted Tuesday against the Canucks. That made him one of only three active players to successfully follow the rare Canadian college route to the NHL.
He was initially going to be healthy-scratched Thursday against the Flames, but Jonathan Toews’ illness prompted the Hawks to notify Philp around 4:40 p.m. he’d need to play after all.
“I was going to go for dinner before the game with a couple friends, and I got a call saying I’m playing,” Philp said. “I told them, ‘I can’t come,’ and then hopped on the bus. It all happened pretty fast. But I didn’t really have any nerves throughout the day. It was just, ‘Alright, we’re going, we’re playing.’
His friends and family scrambled to buy last-second tickets, and Philp rewarded them by earning his first NHL point with an assist on Boris Katchouk’s second-period goal. He protected the puck down low and passed to Katchouk for a one-timer in the high slot, although he “wasn’t even thinking this could materialize into a goal” at the time.
“I was just like, ‘No way,'” he said. “Apparently my mom screamed pretty loud.”
Philp was scratched Saturday against the Oilers, however.
Toews returned to the lineup but was only handed the third-line center role between Sam Lafferty and Colin Blackwell, who have both played very well recently. Jason Dickinson retained his top-line spot and Max Domi settled into the second line.