Last year, Claude Giroux was traded away. At the time, it looked like a weak trade. However, a year later puts a lot of things into perspective. For example, Owen Tippett looks a lot better in March 2023 than in March of 2022. Another of those things we can look back on is the Flyers failed experiment that was German Rubtsov.
Rubtsov was a first round pick by the Flyers in 2016 when Ron Hextall was still general manager. I know recently we’ve been giving former GM Chuck Fletcher a lot of crap for his reign of futility, and rightfully so. To be fair to him, the draft picks he has made at least look promising; although none have yet to make a major impact yet.
Hexy made a bunch of fumbles on the draft pick scene. Most famously, was the whole Nolan Patrick fiasco in 2017. But again, in all fairness, nobody could’ve forseen that Patrick was a walking injury. But what excuse was there in 2016 for selecting Rubtsov?
Bleacher Report graded the Flyers 2016 draft class with a C+; although they did say that third rounder Wade Allison was the best pick of the draft for Philly. Philly voice had a bunch of opinons. Among the comments about Rubtsov were as follows:
"Recorded 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 28 games for the Russian U-18 National Team in 2015-16… was ranked fifth among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting… recorded a goal and three assists for four points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup… also posted two goals and four assists for six points at the World Junior A Challenge."
"Rubtsov is a two-way center that has a balanced skill set that includes being useful on the penalty kill and competing in tough areas. For better or worse he does have a two-year KHL contract, so it will be a little while before the Flyers will get to add him to their organization."
"Philadelphia’s selections on day two of the draft took on the same characteristics that described their pick of German Rubtsov in round one. The Flyers weren’t flashy, but focused on adding players with a combination of size and two-way hockey sense. The result was a draft class that may not possess the scoring upside that some fans hoped it might, but one with a relatively high floor."
Hmmmmmm….possesses “size and speed”. He is 6’1″. That’s not really big in hockey terms. That’s kind of average. And let’s look at the stats that got him selected. He scored 12 goals with 14 assists in 28 games for the Russian under 18 team. Wow. To me, those aren’t impressive numbers.
And if you look at Rubtsov’s minor league stats, it shows the same. He went scoreless on Podolsk Vityaz of the KHL in 2016. When he transferred over the the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he put up 22 points in 16 games. The following year, he divided his time between two QMJHL teams, scoring three goals with eight assists for one team in 11 games and 12 goals and 20 assists in 38 games with the other. Again, not eye popping results.
He was called up the following year to the Phantoms and scored six goals and 10 points in 14 games. And then….nothing. The year after that was the Covid season. In 42 games in Lehigh Valley, he scored two goals with 11 assists. In four games as a callup to Philadelphia, he played in four games. That is the total of his NHL career as a #22 overall pick. Four games with no points.
To put it in perspective, out of his draft class, Carsen Twarynski, the third round pick at #82 overall, played in 22 games and has a goal. Connor Bunnaman, taken at 109th, has one goal and two assists in 54 games. Defender Linus Högberg, taken at 139th, has two assists in five games. And Tanner Laczynski, still with the Flyers, was chosen at #169 and has two goals and two assists in 32 games. That means, that yes, statistically speaking, Bunnaman and Högberg have been better NHLers than Rubtsov.
After the Giroux trade, Rubtsov was assigned to Florida’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte. There he played in five games and scored one goal. This was after a season in Lehigh Valley where he tallied six total points in 37 games. He was not re-signed in the offseason and returned to Russia for the 2022-23 season. He had played for Spartak Moscow in the KHL, scoring two goals in 18 games. He is currently playing for Khimik Voskresensk of the VHL, the Supreme Hockey League; which is a step below the KHL. He has five goals with five assists in 23 games.
While the Nolan Patrick pick turned into a disaster, it made sense. He was a highly touted, well regarded prospect. It just didn’t work out. But Rubtsov came out of nowhere. He was not of a hulking size or super Flash-like speed to impress anyone. How did he rise that high? As a third or fourth round pick? Makes some sense. But the 22nd overall? How did that happen?
Likewise, let’s see who the Flyers missed out on. Taken just four selections later was American prospect Tage Thompson who is quickly becoming one of the top scorers in the league. Or, if you like, 13 picks later was Jordan Kyrou followed four more picks by Alex DeBrincat.
A lot of this shortsightedness is what hurt Hextall and what is hurting the Flyers now. And with another high draft pick potentially looming, the Flyers can’t afford to miss out on this. Rubtsov could be one of the biggest draft busts of all time for the Flyers. You can make an excuse that a player like Patrick or Sam Morin got injured. You can’t excuse when a guy just isn’t good.