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2016 NHL Draft prospect profile: German Rubtsov is a solid two-way centre

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The "Russian factor" seems to have had little effect on the rankings of the young centreman, who projects as a mid first-round pick.

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Every year you hear about some Russian-born players, playing in Russia, who fall in the draft due to concerns over whether they will actually come to North America after being selected. With German Rubtsov, that concern appears to be nil, as his stock among scouts puts him in the conversation for the top-15, and almost unanimously the first round.

He can be tough to evaluate, as he has not been playing club hockey for some time. He has spent the last two seasons almost exclusively with the Russian National team at different levels, and slowly expanded his role with them as he improved.

Birthplace: Chekhov, Russia

Shoots: Left

Position: Centre

Height: 6'0.5" Weight: 190lbs

Rubtsov joined the National U18 team as a 16-year-old, and didn't have a very big role, but that changed quite a bit this year. He was relied upon in all situations, and really stepped his game up to another level.

In the offensive zone, he plays the role of playmaker perfectly. He is there to support his teammates, makes good reads with the puck, and creates space with his physical game. And he can do things himself as well, with deceptively good stick handling, and a pretty heavy shot.

His offensive numbers may leave something to be desired, but when you do your research about him you get some context for that. He does a lot of heavy lifting for his team, taking tough assignments and defensive deployment. He also plays a lot on the penalty kill, so it is forgivable that he doesn't yet light up the scoresheets.

He is relentless in making sure that he is always on the puck, which makes for a great 200-foot game. He gets back on defense as hard as he goes in on the forecheck, and plays very responsibly in his own zone. His physicality in his own end is a very useful tool

One thing that keeps coming up when you read about him is that physicality. He's not enormous by any stretch of the word, but it has been noted that he thrives on contact, and seems to hulk over his opponents despite being just over 6'0" and under 200lbs. He stands to develop even more physically, which is a scary prospect.

He is likely a few years away from the NHL, but this is a great pick for a team with a mid to late first-round pick that needs a number two centre. He is expected to be an early pick in the 2016 CHL import draft, so the opportunity to see him play in North America could come much sooner than later.

Scouting

Hockey Prospect

Rubtsov improved in different areas this year, he has looked more dynamic in his skating and more comfortable on the powerplay, showing he can efficiently dictate the play with the man advantage as well. At this point, there aren’t many flaws left in his game. He is the kind of player who seems to be always around the puck. His sense for the game paired with the work ethic he shows on the ice allows him to be consistently involved in the play, no matter if his team has possession or not. The way he pursues the puck time after time is impressive and his relentless backchecking through the neutral zone is often successful, when he targets and chases the puck carrier he is usually able to catch-up and engage sooner or later. He is a workhorse with an active stick that he uses to disrupt opponents’ plays on a consistent basis in just about every area of the ice.

When his team has the puck, Rubtsov is always there to support his linemates and keep the play alive. He has the puck protection ability and the stickhandling to gain time and make plays. He can drive the net, play an up-tempo game with great intensity, or slow it down when he feels the need in the neutral zone or he looks for options in the offensive zone. He has very good hands and is a smart passer able to take advantage of his strong vision. His offensive numbers may not be overly impressive, but need to be put in the perspective of his all around work, he does the heavy lifting for his linemates making them better and plays a lot on the penalty kill as well.

German doesn’t possess blazing acceleration, but is a strong overall skater, with nice balance and a powerful motor that can generate good speed. He has a legit shot that he should probably use more. We would have liked to see him finish a bigger percentage of the scoring chances he had in our viewings, but that doesn’t seem enough not to consider him top-6 material. As a two-way center that projects to be relied in all situations he will probably need to improve in the faceoff circle, though. All in all, Rubtsov is a rare blend of skills, tenacity and hockey IQ, a prospect that has the likes of a terrific player in the making.

DraftBuzz Hockey

has been Team Russia’s hero as a physically strapped, skilled top line pivot. Instrumental in single handedly dismantling the USA at the WJAC semifinal with a 2G-4A-6PT night, Rubtsov showed his dominance to take RUS on his back to the final. 6’2’’ 178, Rubtsov has a pretty low 22.9BMI for a center who looks like he’s hulking over everyone else. His skating is powerful and he’s more agile with the puck than without it. It’s as if he’s still gaining coordination, and that’s a scary proposition to think of as he’s an athlete who will respond to maturity. Rubtsov is a physically gifted power center who thrives on contact and is still able to work with being hacked, hugged, and stepped into. A full 200 foot conscious player, he doesn’t drop off in effort or awareness in any zone.

Rubtsov can do it all offensively, and he’s at the cusp of being elite 100% of the time. His hands are above average on reception and stickhandling in general. He can pounce on plays if opponents are soft on the puck, and has the intuition to fire his pass/shot without stopping to think. Although Rubtsov’s PTS/GP in the MHL dropped 46% in his last 10GP from .1.11 to .60, it’s not a big concern as the time period in question was when tournaments interjected. Rubtsov has top 15 intrigue with strong odds to be a #2C

Future Considerations

Rubtsov is a highly intelligent contributor all over the ice. He is a game-changer and a highly competitive kid. He can be a dominant puck-possession guy, a strong puck-distributor, a finisher, a defensive specialist and even a pest at times. He has strong skating ability, as he is fast and agile; he uses his skating on both sides of the puck. The Russian center plays a complete game and commits defensively, getting back and being hard on his man at all costs. Rubtsov gets back with speed and can break up plays unexpectedly from behind with a quick stick lift and puck scoop. He continuously makes great defensive plays before turning back up ice. Rubtsov seems to always be on the puck, and when he is not, he is relentless in getting on it. He pounces on opportunities, taking advantage of loose pucks and time and space, and has an impressive ability to create something out of absolutely nothing.

He is strong on the puck and possesses unexpected soft hands in tight. Rubtsov uses his size and strength to protect the puck and fend off incoming checks all while maintaining possession and getting himself in position to try a shot or pass. He uses his long reach to his advantage to break up plays as well as pull the puck back in tight to his body and away from opposing players; he also uses it to keep the puck a distance from the check, increasing his ability to protect it in open ice. Rubtsov has deceptive speed and is quite shifty while moving full steam ahead, making excellent use of his edges to move laterally. He possesses incredible hockey sense, reading the play well and adapting accordingly, showing no quit in his game. Rubtsov picks his spots very well and has a high-velocity shot that he can get off as he moves toward the net, keeping the puck away from his body just enough to unload. He has a creative mind, and can find his man in traffic with crisp tape-to-tape passes. Rubtsov’s on-ice vision, awareness of the game and work ethic are probably his biggest strengths.

ISS

Highly skilled intelligent and determined two-way forward who does the little things to win. Was outstanding at World Jr A Challenge showcase. Best player on the ice - took control of semi final game against more experienced USHL Selects team. Unfortunately, a doping scandal prevented him from playing at the U18 World Championships in Grand Forks. Has smarts, skills and power. He can use any of them to impact the game. Distributes pucks to good areas and has the ability to make plays under pressure. Makes other players around him better. Should be early 2016 CHL Import selection.

Rankings

ISS: 15th

Future Considerations: 20th

Hockey Prospect: 16th

DraftBuzz Hockey: 21st

NHL Central Scouting: 5th (European skaters)

ESPN: 13th

Draft Analyst: 17th

Thoughts

Montreal doesn't have a pressing need for centremen, and this is not a selection you make at ninth overall, so it seems highly unlikely that he'll go to the Canadiens. If by chance they traded down into the 15-21 range, then maybe they would take a look, but all signs point to them wanting to move up if they do at all.

He is a rather enigmatic prospect. He has spent basically his entire career with the Russian National development program, so it's tough to get a read on where exactly he's at. Had he spent a year or two playing in the KHL, we might have a better body of work on which to make a judgement.

That being said, it seems likely that he'll spend next year with whatever CHL team grabs him in the import draft. If that is the case, this will provide a very good read on what he can do against his peers in North America. Based on what he has done with the Russian National team, he seems to have the tools to succeed.

Again, I wouldn't take him at nine, but a team with a mid to late first round pick might be very happy in the future with German Rubtsov.