“Under the Flyers Microscope” is a featured column from Philly Sports Network focusing on the play of a Flyers prospect in one particular game. This week, the attention is on German Rubtsov and his NHL debut.
Former first-round selection, German Rubtsov, has been an interesting Philadelphia Flyers prospect to follow. Since being drafted, expectations for the young center have fluctuated more than the stock market. During his time in the QMJHL, some were ready to label the Russian native a bust as he just did not seem capable of generating enough offense to be an effective player at the professional level. However, opinions changed during his brief stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season. In a campaign shortened by injuries, Rubtsov produced six goals and four assists in just 14 games. Luckily, the second-year pro picked up right where he left off this season for the Phantoms. His six points in seven games and strong two-way play resulted in his call up to the Flyers for Friday’s contest against the New Jersey Devils.
After suffering two uninspiring losses to the Islanders and Penguins, the Flyers needed some change. Along with Carsen Twarynski, and Philippe Myers, Rubtsov was called upon to provide that jolt to a roster in desperate need of a spark. However, how much of an impact would German Rubtsov make in his NHL debut?
As to be expected when you’re placed on the fourth line, opportunities for Rubtsov in the first period were few and far between. He saw his initial shift early on and failed to win his first NHL face-off. What stood out in Rubtsov’s limited playing time in the opening period was his good positioning. The rookie center new where he needed to be on the ice and it paid off. Rubtsov placed himself in front of New Jersey’s net and was able to generate a shot from Chris Stewart’s pass from behind the net. Rubtsov’s position defensively resulted in the ability to possess a puck and clear it out of the zone with ease. At times Rubtsov appeared a step behind the opposition but that simply comes from transitioning to the NHL pace. Overall, Rubtsov had a respectable opening tilt, playing a smart and disciplined game with good positioning.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same for Rubtsov in the middle period. The fourth line saw limited action once again. Part of that can be attributed to the amount of time the Flyers spent on special teams. However, Rubtsov and his linemates received few opportunities to get anything going. The time Rubtsov spent on the ice was also short-lived. His shifts were quick, allowing his maybe one opportunity in the offensive zone each time.
Still, Rubtsov did not seem like a liability during his time on ice. He knew where he had to be and made the most out of the time the coaching staff gave him in the second period.
Opportunities for the fourth line picked up a little bit in the first half of the third period. Philadelphia’s strategy in doing this was to simply provide a little more rest for the top guys heading into the final stretch of a tight game. For Rubtsov, he continued to demonstrate his strong two-way game in his short shifts. While in the defensive zone, Rubtsov was able to prevent a shot from going through. He then moved the puck in transition, creating what could have been a decent scoring chance. Unfortunately, Rubtsov was unable to make anything out of it, losing the puck deep in the offensive zone.
German Rubtsov spent his entire night on the fourth line centering Carsen Twarynski and Chris Stewart. He totaled eight minutes and recorded one shot, two blocks, and one hit. Additionally, he won 67% of his face-off opportunities. In his limited time on ice, Rubtsov looked fine. Unfortunately, none of his shifts lasted long enough for him to really get something going.
In Friday’s game against the Devils, the fourth line’s role was to simply serve as a stop-gap for the top three lines. Throughout the entire game, their only job was to come onto the ice for brief stints to give other forwards a few extra seconds of rest. To be blunt, Rubtsov and his linemates served very little relevance during the contest.
Rubtsov is a former first-round pick with a great deal of potential. At the age of 21, receiving heavy loads of playing time is still the best thing for his development. Sticking him on Philadelphia’s fourth line with players that cannot generate much offense of their own is not helping Rubtsov long term. It is also doing very little to help the Flyers. If Rubtsov is not going to be placed in a role where he can make an impact on Philadelphia’s roster, he is better off playing more minutes with the Phantoms.
Of course, only time will tell to see what Alain Vigneault and Chuck Fletcher’s plan is for their young center.
Mandatory Credit: Alex McIntyre