Former No. 1 pick German Rubtsov hopes to get back on track this season

Chuck Fletcher

VOORHEES – Some No. 1 draft picks – like Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim and Sean Couturier – pay almost immediate dividends.

Other Flyers top selections, such as German Rubtsov, might take a little longer.

The 2016 first-rounder, taken 22nd overall, has been slowed by injuries, including a shoulder problem (requiring surgery), and is still trying to find his way to the NHL.

It might take another season but the Flyers are willing to be patient and hopefully a full season with the Phantoms (Rubtsov managed to play 14 games with the AHL team last season) could do the trick.

The 21-year-old center from Chekhov, Russia remains optimistic, as does general manager Chuck Fletcher.

“From what (head trainer) Jim McCrossin and our medical staff tell me, he’s doing well,’’ Fletcher said the other day at the Skate Zone. “He’s full-on training right now.

“He’s sort of past the rehab stage. Now he’s working on strength and speed and quickness and his hockey game, and that’s exciting.’’

Rubtsov will stick around the Skate Zone this summer to accelerate the recovery process.

“He’ll essentially have a full summer here to get ready for next training camp,’’ Fletcher said, “and again it was before I got here, but he showed very well at the beginning of the season, talking to (Phantoms head coach) Scott Gordon and the people that were around Lehigh Valley.

“He still only has about 13 games (14 to be exact) of pro experience, or somewhere in that range. Another young guy that needs time and experience, but again, smart hockey player, physically strong, has good skill and we believe has a bright future.’’

Rubtsov hopes to get a shot at the Flyers sometime in the near future but the team is pretty well stocked with centers at the moment, including Couturier, Kevin Hayes and Patrick.

“Everybody has an equal chance,’’ Rubtsov said. “It depends how you show up and it’s up to you.’’

Getting another chance to play under Gordon should help his development. It was Gordon who made some adjustments in his game. There was a greater emphasis on shooting the puck and the result was six goals in those 14 games.

“I started playing out of the defensive zone and then the coach mentioned that I should start playing more offensively,’’ Rubtsov said through an interpreter. “I followed the advice and you saw the result.’’

>O’Brien headed for Boston University?

Speaking of first-round draft picks off to slow starts, the Flyers’ 2018 second first-round pick (19th overall) Jay O’Brien, did not exactly tear it up for Providence College this past season.

The center played in 25 games but managed only five points (two goals).

Now comes word he may transfer to Boston University, which is more of a hockey powerhouse.

Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr is still a big believer.

“One thing, he has a lot of energy,’’ Flahr said. “He’s always been a competitor. He likes to play with pace. A lot of things for him that he needs to work on is strength related. He’s not the biggest body. Stepping from high school into the college level, it’s a challenge.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are. I think he learned that. It’s probably the first time in his career that he went through any adversity at any level. Obviously, he’s not happy. He battled through some injuries, but hopefully that’s behind him. He can put his best foot forward here. Whenever he ends up this year, whether it’s back in junior or at Boston University, he’s a lot more confident, stronger and ready to go.’’

>Bailey exits

Justin Bailey, who was acquired from Buffalo in a trade for Taylor Leier, was not tendered a qualifying offer and he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The trade to get Tyler Pitlick from Dallas also helped push Bailey out the door.

“Justin’s worked hard his whole career,’’ Fletcher said. “To me he’s right on the cusp of playing. I just feel like we have a couple more roster tweaks coming here in the next few days.

“With the depth that we’ll have at that point, I just felt in fairness to Justin, let him go free and find the best situation for him. We have a lot of young talent down in Lehigh Valley, and I just didn’t feel confident that he would start the season with us.

“Just in fairness to him, let him have a fresh start and move on. He did a great job for us last year. I think this year we’ll have significantly better depth and more competition. Sometimes for a player like that who’s been battling, it’s the right thing to do.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2343 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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