The coaches are happy with my performance. I'll be finishing the season in Russia, getting some training and make it to the next Flames camp and we'll go from there. - Rushan Rafikov
BRANDON, MB -- He's had but a cup of coffee across the Atlantic, but that hasn't impeded Russian defenceman Rushan Rafikov's confidence when skating against North American boys.
Last season, the Calgary Flames prospect appeared in his only stint of North American game experience playing in the 2013 Subway Super Series, where he and the Russian selects took on teams assembled by each of the three CHL member leagues.
He's back for more this week as he found himself back on Canadian soil for the 2014 edition of the series, this time, ready to show the boys of the CHL what a 19-year-old who skates regularly with men in the VHL - Russia's AHL equivalent - can do.
"I'll be beating them at their hockey," Rafikov said with conviction through a translator. "It's going to be an aggressive, physical series and I'm going to skate fast and play the local game."
Rather than enter the CHL's annual Import Draft and go the major-junior route, Rafikov opted to develop in Russia, where he and his agent felt it would be best to honor his contract with the MHL's Yaroslav Lokamotiv.
After playing just two games for Lokamotiv at Russia's junior level this year, Rafikov climbed up the ladder to the VHL's HK Ryazan, where he's tallied 12 assists in 17 tilts so far.
Prior to his first VHL stint, Rafikov and the Russians played a series of exhibition games at Hockey Canada's 2014 Summer Development camp where the blue liner posted three assists in seven games.
Rafikov is happy with his decision to stay in Russia, where he's been afforded the opportunity to skate at the pro level early in his development.
"It definitely helps," he said of playing in the VHL. "They are stronger, faster and you have to be up to par with that to be able to play at that level."
Touted by scouts as an aggressive, physical defenceman with offensive upside, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound product of Saratov, a Russian city of about 838,000, was selected 187th overall in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
He was expected to attend the NHL club's development camp following the draft, however, Rafikov submitted his visa application papers past deadline and was unable to make it to Cow Town.
With all that cleared up, Rafikov is ready to make his debut in a Flames uniform this coming off-season.
When asked where he feels he's at in his development and what the Flames can expect from him at camp, Rafikov responded with further confidence.
"I have reached my peak," he said. "The coaches are happy with my performance. I'll be finishing the season in Russia, getting some training and make it to the next Flames camp and we'll go from there."