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2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers prospect review: German Rubtsov

The rookie season comes at last.

Heather Barry / SB Nation

It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but we can finally say that German Rubtsov has his first AHL season under his belt. After a strong start to what should have been his rookie season (10 points in those first 14 games), was cut short by a shoulder injury in 2018-19, heading into this season, there were some high hopes for what Rubtsov would be able to do this season, and what we got was something of a mixed bag.

This season saw Rubtsov show moments of serious flash, some stretches were he looked positively like a force on the ice—so much so that his performance earned him a look with the Flyers, limited as it may have been. But then we also had some colder stretches where we didn’t see that same level of effectiveness from him. So what do we make of all that? Let’s dive a little deeper and see if we can parse something out.

By The Numbers

So we have something of a middling stat line, here. Rubtsov’s 13 points on the season put him 14th in scoring on the team (and yes that really is as depressing as it sounds), which does certainly fall short of expectations. Even if we didn’t expect for him to keep scoring at the same clip of his first 14 games in 2018, it would have been fair to hope for a little more than we got in this season total.

A couple of pieces that we can pull out are notable. The few goals relative to assists does make sense as a ratio given what we know about Rubtsov’s game—he does tend to be more of a playmaker, though knowing that he does have a pretty good shot when he opts to use it, it does feel fair to wish that we’d have seen a bit more from him in the goal scoring department.

And speaking of that shot, a 3.8 shooting percentage just feels unbelievably low. The coaching staff has been trying to emphasize that he shoot more and this will help him see some better results (as was the case in the early part of the season), and with that kind of work, we could reasonably expect that his scoring results will improve. 3.8 percent just really doesn’t seem sustainable if he keeps doing even just half decent work, that’s so low. So here’s hoping that next season we start to see some upward regression there.

And the on-ice stats, then, are just pretty poor, there’s really no way about it. The team is getting pretty well out-shot and out-chanced when he’s on the ice, and it isn’t just a product of the team failing to drive play as a whole and the numbers looking bad because of that, he’s performing negative to the team average, as well. And in a way this feels a little curious, because we know that Rubtsov has strong defensive instincts, that’s kind of a key element of his game, but this isn’t really something that we’re seeing reflected in the 5-on-5 on-icee numbers here.

Is this something that we’re ready to get really fussed about just yet? No. Because this still technically was Rubtsov’s rookie season, and it wouldn’t have been fair to expect him to be dominant right away, to have all of his details together. These shot metrics are something worth keeping an eye on, going forward, because if they remain poor, that’s a real problem. But it’s also not outside the realm of possibility that they rebound some as he gets more games under his belt. We’ll just have to wait and see which way it goes.

But numbers time isn’t all doom and gloom, thankfully. While the shot impacts, as we’ve said, were something of a weak point for Rubtsov, where he did stand out was in transition. In his first 23 games tracked, Rubtsov graded out very positively in both controlled exits and entries. And while, unlike David Kase who we last talked about, he hasn’t served as a volume generator of entries or exits (he’s more middling in this department), he has still been reliable when tasked with getting the puck moving up-ice in transition. The numbers also tell us he relies heavily on carrying the puck specifically, rather than more evenly mixing carries and passes, and his success rate in these with that considered should really also be a testament to his strength on the puck. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone who’s watched him play, but it’s nice when you have that backed up by the numbers.

Three burning questions

1. Did Rubtsov live up to our expectations this season

Yes and no, I think. It was really hard not to be excited about what Rubtsov was going to be able to do this season, after seeing the hot start he got off to in 2018-19, but it was still important to remember that those were only 14 games and he was effectively still a rookie at the start of this season. I know I tried to keep my expectations somewhat reasonable, but we still got a bit of a mixed bag. What I wanted to see what Rubtsov finding a way to tap into some of that same momentum and find a defined role with the team, and we certainly did see some flashes of that—he had some really strong playmaking moments and did show some prowess on the penalty kill—but we didn’t see that same level of consistent effectiveness at 5-on-5, and that was a bit of a disappointment. I’d be hard pressed to say that a rookie struggling some to contribute consistently on an also struggling team is the end of the world or cause for serious concern, but it is fair to feel a little underwhelmed.

2. What do we expect from Rubtsov next season?

Ideally, he’ll head into his second full season and just start to look more settled, generally speaking. i don’t know that I have much in the way of precise expectations for him, but this season, as with a number of the other returning prospects, he will figure to have some increased roles, and even if this season was something of a trial by fire for him at times, he should be in a better position to be successful. We’ve seen some of the growing pains, and we understand them, but now it’s time that we see him start to shake them off.

3. What would we like to see Rubtsov to improve on?

Some of this will be tied up in team success, but it would be great to see him able to improve those shot metrics. As we’ve mentioned, the eye tells us that he was solid on the penalty kill, and is generally just a player with strong defensive instincts, and what we want to see are the numbers starting to reflect that type of impact at 5-on-5. We talk a lot about prospects, particularly those like Rubtsov, needing to play a more complete game, and this would be a step towards that. His transition numbers are solid, and we know he can be a strong play maker, both at even strength and on the power play (though we would like to see more consistency therein, as well), but improving his shot impacts and driving play more positively are going to be major assets to his game. It all sort of works together, but that’s a really the key piece.