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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: German Rubtsov’s stock is rising

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Once divisive in nickname and also projection, but perhaps the latter no longer!

Heather Barry / SB Nation

It’s finally happened, folks! It feels like we’ve been talking about this kid for forever, and now he’s finally here. Well, in a manner of speaking. He’s in the state. The vicinity. Close enough.

It hasn’t been the smoothest of roads for German Rubtsov since he was drafted in 2016, but he finally made his professional debut this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL, and he certainly made an impression. But, of course, things haven’t smoothed out entirely, not just yet. We’ve got a lot to dig into here. Let’s get into it.

No. 11: German Rubtsov

Position: F
Age: 21 (6/27/1998)
Size: 6’0”, 187
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft — Round 1, Pick 22 (Pick acquired from Winnipeg along with Pick No. 36 in 2016 in exchange for Picks No. 18 and 79 in 2016 on June 24, 2016)
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) - 6 G, 4 A in 14 GP
Nationality: Russian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 14

As we said, Rubtsov made his professional debut this season, and it was, well, it was a pretty short season for him. Rubtsov got in for 14 games before sustaining a shoulder injury that would require season ending surgery, but let us tell you, in those 14 games, he looked really good.

Rubtsov has always been something of an interesting case as a prospect because, while he was very clearly incredibly skilled, he never really figured out how to pull all of the pieces of his game together at the same time, when he was playing in the QMJHL. We saw flashes, but there wasn’t really much consistency there. So we were left to wonder just what the Flyers had in him, and if he was ever going to be able to put it together.

The good news is that he hit the AHL and was able to do so pretty much immediately. He was able to hit the ground running and establish himself in pretty much all areas of the game. He was scoring at just under a point per game pace, and for a bit of time was tied for the league lead in goals scored by a rookie. His defensive game was also sound, and his few games paired with Mikhail Vorobyev on the penalty kill was just magic, so much so that they even got themselves a nickname—The Russian Bash Brothers (thanks Greg Carey). Even just physically, he was able to make the transition to the pro level easily—it was pretty striking how easily he was able to out-muscle seasoned veterans one-on-one. In short, it was all coming together for him.

Rubtsov’s underlying numbers were interesting as well. Over his 14 games, per Brad’s data, he put up a 44.62 CF% (-2.69 CF% Rel), which was just about middling. That isn’t a stellar figure, even on a team that wasn’t driving particularly well, but had he played over a larger sample, his numbers may well have improved. From the numbers I tracked, Rubtsov generated 42 individual zone entries at 5-on-5, 27 of which were carry-ins (64.29 percent), and an additional four of his dump ins/passes in were recovered, meaning that the Phantoms ended up with possession 73.81 percent of the time

He also graded out well in zone exits, as well—he was responsible for 38 zone exits, 22 of which were done with possession, good for 57.89 percent.

This is all just to say that, this part wasn’t an immediate mastery, but Rubtsov was figuring out pretty quickly how to be a strong possession player. And, knowing what we do about controlled zone entries tending to lead to more shot attempts, it stands to reason that if he had continued to drive possession in that way, better results on the shot attempt front were coming, and his differential might rebound some.

So it was a strong start to a season that was unfortunately cut very short. So what’s next? Rubtsov’s had a full off-season of training, and he can certainly figure to be in the mix to earn a spot with the Flyers out of camp. And we know there’s precedent for this happening (Misha Vorobyev, hello), so it certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility that he could come in and tear it up in the preseason and make the jump to the NHL. But it feels more likely that he starts the season in the AHL, given that he’s coming off of a major injury and only has those 14 professional games under his belt. The team may decide not to rush him.

And this may not be the worst thing! Rubtsov’s already looked like something of a stabilizing force—not always bringing the most flash but serving as a pretty consistent offensive producer while being responsible defensively—and this is a useful player to have playing with the kids just making the jump to the AHL. And boy will the Phantoms have an abundance of those.

It feels a little weird to be talking about Rubtsov like he’s the seasoned vet, when he’ll still technically be a rookie next season, but there we are. When you play a mature, well rounded game like he does, this is what happens.

This season for Rubtsov will be about not just continuing to polish his game and work on the finer points, but also to continue to bring the level of consistency that he showed at the start of last season. Because it’s one thing to be very good in a small sample of games, but another to be very good across the whole of the same. Rubtsov is finally looking like he’s figuring out his game, and it’s really encouraging to see. Development isn’t linear, we know that, but it’s nice to be able to start to see distinct markers of improvement.

Rubtsov’s works is finally starting to pay dividends. He’s doing all of the things, and for the first time, doing them at the same time. And now he just needs to sustain it.


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: