Does Tyrell Goulbourne Have An NHL Future in Flyers Bottom Six?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tyrell Goulbourne is out to prove doubters wrong at the pro level in the Flyers organization. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News 
Editor's Note: This is the third of many player profile features that will be completed and posted online this summer to give an accurate update on the players' development paths, skill set, potential NHL ceiling and more. Most player profiles will also include exclusive thoughts from both the player and the coaching staff with in-depth assessment/comments.

If you missed either of the first two player profiles, click the links below:
The first profile story featured forward Cole Bardreau.
The second profile story featured defenseman Robert Hagg.
Similar in some ways to fellow teammate Cole Bardreau, rookie forward Tyrell Goulbourne is an under-the-radar kind of prospect in the Philadelphia Flyers system for the simple fact that he isn't a flashy offensive player who wows with his ability to create scoring chances.

Goulbourne can't and won't be successful at the pro level if his game is predicated on those above traits just mentioned. Instead, his potential path to the NHL will be driven by his tenacity and willingness to work hard and play a structured two-way game - something that Goulbourne had some troubles adjusting to early in his first season at the pro level with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Heading down the stretch of his rookie season with the Phantoms, Goulbourne fully embraced the bottom-six role and began to take pride in the fact that he can make a difference by shutting down opposing teams' top offensive players.

"I know I'm not going to be a first or second line guy," he said when asked about adjusting to his role at the pro-level earlier this spring. "I know I'm not going to be the guy that's putting the puck in net all the time, but I would like to be the guy that shuts down other teams and is hard on other team's defensemen. That goes a long way."

As with any incoming rookie, there is a learning curve regardless of the skill set or style of play. The fact that Goulbourne was able to learn first-hand what works and what doesn't work this past season in the AHL combined with his newly found acceptance and pride in his role that best suits his strengths bodes well for his future. He's also had a good mentor in Lehigh Valley that knows a thing or two about making it work as a career in a bottom-six role.

You can help keep me on the road covering the Lehigh Valley Phantoms next season by making a donation via GoFundMe or PayPal.

The Basics

Player: Tyrell Goulbourne
Position: Forward
Height/Weight: 6-0, 200 pounds
How Acquired: Drafted by Flyers in 3rd round (72nd overall) in 2013
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent in 2018-19

Skill Set: Physical checking, grinder type that fits bottom six role
NHL Comparable: St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves? (again, offer your suggestion in comments)
Potential NHL Ceiling: Bottom-six physical/energy forward who can kill penalties

Goulbourne's Background

Goulbourne immediately had a chip on his shoulder upon being drafted by the Flyers in the 3rd round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Many were confused by the pick and didn't see much potential in the prospect, but clearly Philadelphia's management/staff saw something worthy of the third round selection.

Playing a two-way game in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Kelowna Rockets, Goulbourne was never a point-per-game at the junior league level - his best season coming prior to turning pro in his overage season in 2014-15. That year, Goulbourne amassed 22 goals and 23 assists in 62 games and a powerful Kelowna team won the WHL championship before falling in the 2015 Memorial Cup Final.

The Edmonton, Alberta native played the penalty kill in the WHL and was a regular on the PK in his first AHL season from October through April.

Goulbourne's 2015-16 Season in Review

Goulbourne started off his rookie season with a bang, tallying his first pro goal in the Phantoms' second game of the season in Springfield. On the goal, he made a nice play near the offensive zone blue line - back-checking and creating a turnover that he finished off for his first pro goal.

"I saw that guy with his back turned towards me, so I decided jump on it and I smacked his stick and got pretty lucky on it - bounced right in front of me," Goulbourne said of his first pro goal back on October 16th. "I was aiming low-blocker but I didn't realize the goalie was a lefty so it was low-glove. But I'm glad it went in."

Then, there were his fights. Always known to be tough, Goulbourne impressed in the fisticuffs department in his first two pro fights - both of which he didn't seek out but was challenged by the opposition. On October 24th, it was a one-punch knockout of Providence Bruins' Anthony Camara. Just two weeks later, Goulbourne dropped the gloves off the opening face-off against former Phantoms forward Zack Stortini and rung his bell.

Goulbourne played off his big knockout punch of Stortini after the November 8th game saying, "Actually he went after me. I just answered the bell. It's scary to see those kind of things happen. I'm glad he's okay, and it shows a lot about his character to come back out after something like that happens."

The former Kelowna Rockets forward continued to build confidence in November, scoring a goal in Binghamton - his 4th in his first 13 games - and explaining that he had a bit of extra motivation entering the season.

“What’s helping me is a lot of people have doubt against me,” Goulbourne said back on November 11th in an interview for Hockey's Future. “People believed I wasn’t going to do much in this league and I really wanted to prove them wrong. I knew I was a good player, and it’s nice to be rewarded for hard work. I want to keep it going.”

Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon was also pleased with Goulbourne's start to the season.

"He's a strong kid, obviously brings an element of toughness, but he can make plays," Gordon said after the 6-3 win over Binghamton. "We are happy with the way he's playing. He's getting better and he's going to be an important part of our team."
Goulbourne went on to produce seven points (four goals, three assists) in 13 November games, including points in three straight early in the month and his first two-goal peformance at the pro level at the tail end of the month at home against rival Hershey.

Perhaps a little overconfident in putting up offensive numbers early in the season, Goulbourne began to get away from his skill set a bit throughout the middle of the season. That, combined with the team's overall struggle for offense, led to a rough middle part of the season for the rookie forward. He went 33 games without a goal, and his overall game simply wasn't where it needed to be in order to be successful in a bottom-six role.

After tallying six goals in 20 games, Goulbourne tallied just once over his final 53 games. Still, his game is not predicated on offensive production. The reason he wasn't successful throughout the middle part of the season stemmed from his inability to play his game. 

Toward the end of the season, Goulbourne was getting back on track and was more noticeable in games. He has the right mentality, and agreed he was getting away from his game during both his and the team's struggles in the middle of the season.

It will be interesting to see how much his game has evolved next fall. As is the case with most prospects, finding a level of consistency and playing like he finished this past season on a regular basis will be the key to his success.

Goulbourne By The Numbers

2015-16 Season Stats: 73GP, 7G-10A, -7, 75 PIM
2015-16 Season Grade: B-

October Grade: B-

October Stats: 9 games played, 2G-0A, -4, 5 PIM

Goulbourne has been a pleasant surprise in the first month of the season. The physical, but talented forward has impressed with his ability to get in on the fore-check and cause havoc for opposing defensemen. He made a nice play on his first pro goal to steal a puck off a defender and beat the goalie with a quick shot. Goulbourne still has plenty to learn, but he could project to a legitimate bottom-six option for the Flyers down the road.

November Grade: B+
November Stats: 15GP, 4G-4A,+1, 10 PIM

Goulbourne has been a pleasant surprise through two months of his rookie season, combining energy and physical play with the ability to create turnovers on the fore-check and finish offensive scoring chances. He's been pretty effective in a third line role playing on the wing.

December Grade: D
December Stats: 13GP, 0G-1A, -6, 11 PIM

After a strong start to his rookie season it was a December to forget for Goulbourne, whose minus nine rating was the lowest on the roster. Ups and downs are to be expected though for first year pros. Unfortunately, Goulbourne appeared to be injured after a first period fight on New Year's Eve and wasn't on the bench for the final 40 minutes of Lehigh Valley's 3-1 win in Hershey.

January Grade: C+
January Stats: 12GP, 0G-4A, +3, 4 PIM

Goulbourne has gone 26 games without a goal, but he's learning to be an effective bottom-six forward that plays physical and with energy. He was only a minus player in one of the 12 January games last month and seems to be playing with a little bit more consistency.

Febraury Grade: C
February Stats: 11GP, 1G-0A, -3, 13 PIM

Goulbourne had gone 33 games without a goal before his late 2nd period tally in Springfield on February 21st, but he's learning to be an effective bottom-six forward that plays physical and with energy. He admitted he was getting away from what had made him successful earlier in the season but that he's getting back to playing to his strengths and embracing his role as a bottom-six grinding type forward that shuts down other team's scorers.

March Grade: C+
March Stats: 10GP, 1G-0A, Even, 8 PIM

Much like Bardreau, Goulbourne too is getting back to the kind of game he needs to play at the pro level to be successful. He's starting to play the grinding type role more consistently and as a result he's much more noticeable on the ice - getting in on the forecheck and playing on the team's penalty kill.

April Grade: B
April Stats: 6GP, 0G-1A, +2, 24 PIM

Goulbourne was trying to do too much down the stretch while the team was in a losing skid and desperate for offense, but head coach Scott Gordon said he loved Goulbourne's game in the final weekend of the season - mentioning he hopes Goulbourne plays that way more regularly next season. Goulbourne understands his role now and appears to be sticking to it. It will be interesting to see how he looks in camp in the fall. 

Players' Thoughts

Forward Jay Rosehill

On his talks with Goulbourne during the season on the bottom-six role:
I've talked to Tyrell about how that role has changed and become quite important in how those guys aren't dime a dozen - the guys that can play that fourth line and still have enough skill to play in the NHL. I think teams are really looking for guys like that and I think Tyrell is a guy that can play that style of hockey. If he stays on track and understands that and doesn't try to be something different than what NHL teams are looking for I think he can have a lot of success in his career.
On sort of mentoring Goulbourne in that fourth line role:
I just try to steer him that way and show him the aspects that I can show him in that respect and then at the same time take his talents as well and adapt that to that role and make him be a pretty good player. It's just a matter of recognizing the need in the NHL and what's necessary, and adapting your game to that. If you're aware of that early in your career, you can use it to your advantage.
Forward Tyrell Goulbourne

On overcoming some mid-season slumping/adversity:
I felt I've been working hard and my game has been good. I got back to the basics, getting on the body and fore-checking. Just try to do the right things. I love getting pucks in, chasing it and using my speed and battling in the corners. I think I'm strong on my feet. Tighter checking games work out to my advantage.
On leaning to Rosehill for advice:
Rosehill has obviously been there before. He's experienced and knows what he's talking about. I know I'm know I'm not going to be a first or second line guy, but when you're team is struggling it's nice to contribute offensively but at the same time I have to stick to my roots and do what I do best. I think I kind of got away from that it a little bit, but just getting back to it. I know what I have to do and I know what it takes, but I just got away from it. I'm back to it now. I lost it for a bit, but it actually really helped me understand.
On if he's learning to embrace the third/fourth line role:
Absolutely. I played that way back in junior. It's a lot different game up here but I did what I needed to do to win at junior. I know I'm not going to be the guy that's putting the puck in net all the time, but I would like to be the guy that shuts down other teams and is hard on other team's defensemen. That goes a long way.
Coaches Comments

Head Coach Scott Gordon

On Goulbourne's progress:
The learning curves are different for every player. We’d like to have Tyrell play 85-90% of his games the way he played the final two games.
On getting Goulbourne back on track:
In the last month, he made some strides to get back to where was as far as getting his skating up to speed, and finishing hits and being more involved in a two-way game playing a 200-foot game. That’s what he wasn’t doing through the middle of the year.
Final Analysis

Goulbourne endured the ups and downs many first year players go through last season. For guys like Goulbourne who weren't drafted because of the numbers they put up in juniors, adjusting to pro hockey and playing a role that best fits their skill set is often tougher than the adjustment to the speed and the skill of the game.

His early season offensive success was a pleasant surprise and gave him confidence, but Goulbourne will not be a successful pro if it relies upon him being an offensively-minded player. He learned that the hard way throughout the middle portion of the season, where he got away from playing to his strenghts and in turn what made him successful in the beginning of the season.

Goulbourne is still learning, but if he continues to develop his game and use his skill set of being a physical, hard-nosed worker on the ice that uses his skating legs and plays with speed and tenacity - he could find himself pushing for an NHL job in the Flyers' bottom-six in the near future. At the tail end of the season, the coaching staff had conversations with him about playing his game and not trying to do too much on the ice.

If Goulbourne sticks to his guns in 2016-17, he'll be a force to be reckoned with on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the fall.


Anonymous said...

So basically he's going to fill one of the voids left by PEB/VV after next season?

TonyAndrock said...

@Joseph - I don't think Goulbourne will be in the NHL next season, just that he has the potential to be an NHL player in the bottom-six down the road.

Jowar said...

If he has speed I hope he can challenge the way too slow Ryan White for the job of the 4th line. White is just too slow for 21st century hockey.

PerttuJunnonaho said...

I n my mind Tyler Coulbourne will be a good player in our 4 line, because he has harnessing his physical play and don"t take stupid penalties like Rinaldo did!

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