Junior coach Bryan Lizotte says believe in Flyers prospect German Rubtsov's offensive potential


General manager Ron Hextall, with each draft and season, created a hoopla surrounding the Flyers' once-bare farm system.

As it gained steam, more and more would German Rubtsov fade into the background, blending in among the organization's growing prospect pool.

Appropriate for the Russian provided his style and substance.

There's a quietness to Rubtsov's game but in a good way. The 20-year-old center is so disciplined and defensively aware that he doesn't jump out as a first-round pick.

But then he'll skate smoothly, show off his skilled hands and rip a shot — everything sound and advanced, which has Flyers fans scratching their heads.

Where's the offense?

Bryan Lizotte isn't perplexed. He just recommends time and patience. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan head coach saw Rubtsov up close as an assistant in 2017-18, when the 2016 22nd overall pick was sent to the club in a November QMJHL trade.

Lizotte knows there's untapped potential from an offensive standpoint.

"As a forward coming back into the zone, just being defensively responsible; because he's got a great shot, he can fire the puck," Lizotte said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He takes care of his own end first, but absolutely with the right coaching, he'll be able to contribute more offensively down the road."

Rubtsov put up 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) in 49 regular-season junior games last year between the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Acadie-Bathurst. With the Titan, he scored 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 38 contests, then added 10 points (five goals, five assists) over 19 playoff games. While those numbers don't pop for a first-rounder at the junior level, Lizotte said Rubtsov's intangibles did, especially during Acadie-Bathurst's run to capturing a QMJHL championship and Memorial Cup title.

"As the rounds went on, it wasn't really during the season, it was more when the game was on the line, when the competition is a little bit more, the playoffs, that elevating your game, that's what really caught our eye and we said, this guy is a gamer, he's a player," the Titan coach said. "A guy can play the regular season like anybody else, it's a long season, but you get in those situations where the game is on the line, the championship is on the line, and then you elevate — that to us was the indication that he's something special."

Hextall and the Flyers are not disappointed in Rubtsov's production. It's hard to fault a 20-year-old kid for taking pride in his defense and making low-risk, heads-up plays. Two-way, turnover-free hockey is an emphasis of Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. The Flyers won't mind having to encourage aggressiveness as Rubtsov develops.

"We need to get a little bit more push on the north side of the game," Hextall said in July. "The south side is very good. Sometimes that's a bit of a mentality that's got to change and it doesn't come overnight. He's an intelligent player. He has a lot of skill. Again, he's a very responsive player. He doesn't cheat the game. He's never on the wrong side of the puck or the wrong side of his man. We need a little bit more of a push north. Again, it's a mentality, it's the way he's been taught."

Coincidentally, the Flyers have a hole to fill at third-line center this season, the same year Rubtsov is set to make the AHL jump with Lehigh Valley. Given the responsibilities of the role, Rubtsov's responsible game has him in the picture.

"I know he has the capability eventually if he puts in the time," Lizotte said. "For a lot of guys, they'll have to go there, prove themselves, try to find a way to fit into that lineup and I know Ruby can do that and has the ability to do that if he's given the opportunity. It's going to be up to him whether he shows up, really wants it and Philly is going to work with him a little bit."

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