It’s rare in a draft year that a high-ranking Russian prospect is described as a “pass-first” type of guy. Not the prototypical sniper we’re used to seeing out of high end Russian prospects but a very well-rounded seventeen-year-old deployed in every situation imaginable. Rubtsov was leaned on heavily in international play by his coaches to shutdown top lines and create chaos. Whether it’s his relentless forecheck or his seemingly innate ability to find the open man, Rubtsov has the skill set to warrant his #5 ranking among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
A lack of familiarity with the player might see Rubtsov slide in this draft. First round material seems like the general consensus, but recently the projections place him in the 20th overall range. He missed out on a big opportunity to impress when he was forced to miss the World U-18 Championships along with the rest of his Russian teammates as part of the ongoing doping scandal in Russian international competition. Regardless, he has great numbers representing Russia elsewhere and has the potential to be a dynamic NHL forward. What he may lack in pure size and force at around the 6’1″ mark, his skating ability and intense, pesky forecheck more than make up for. The tenacity of Brad Marchand with the positioning and reach ability of a Ryan O’Reilly type.
THE EYE TEST
The well-rounded Rubtsov was the top player on the inaugural Russia under-18 team this season, and showed well in international play. Offensively, he has the traits one would expect of a top Russian prospect. He’s an above-average skater, with a good first step and an easy stride. His skills aren’t elite, but he shows good hands and is able to create space for himself. His hockey IQ is very impressive, as he displays great patience with the puck, sees his options well and always finds himself involved with the play. Rubtsov is a fierce competitor in puck battles and, despite having a lean frame, is able to win a fair amount of them. He’s also a quality defensive center, who has been leaned on all season in critical defensive situations, and is often a threat to score shorthanded.
DOES HE FIT WITH THE RED WINGS?
With the selection of Svechnikov last year, Rubtsov would make back-to-back years of Russian first round selections for the Wings. Never a team to shy away from Russian or European skaters in general, there is a realistic chance the Wings draft Rubtsov. If they do it means they’ve had their eyes on him and felt what they’ve seen and heard so far adequate to justify him as their first round pick. I’m confident enough in the Wings European scouting to feel comfortable with the selection if they make it but I feel like there are going to be better players available when the Wings are choosing and Rubtsov might be gifted to a team picking closer to the end of the round. It’s just a difficult position to pick from, especially if we see some picks hovering around the top ten start to drop and become available later than expected. While he’s certainly a player with a bit of mystery to what exactly his potential could be, I’d prefer a safer route from the Wings.