Flyers 2016 first-round pick German Rubtsov hopes to cap his one-and-a-half season stay in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with a President's Cup championship and a trip to the 2018 Memorial Cup in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Over the course of the QMJHL playoffs to date, Rubtsov has posted nine points with includes four goals, including a shorthanded tally, and five assists in 13 games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He scored a goal in the clinching game of the Titan's semifinal sweep of the Victoriaville Tigres.
Acadie-Bathurst wrapped up their series with Victoriaville on April 25 and then waited for nearly a week to find out the identity of their opponent in the finals. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada ultimately prevailed in seven games over the Charlottetown Islanders. All three of Charlottetown's wins in the series came in overtime, while each of the four Armada victories were in regulation.
The campaign has been something of a rollercoaster ride for Rubtsov; a smooth-skating forward with good two-way hockey sense and above-average puck skills. He never got into a steady groove offensively this season -- after posting 22 points in 16 Quebec League games last season, he was below a point-per-game this year -- but the Flyers' organization remains high on his long-term upside.
Rubtsov's 2017-18 season had several interruptions. After joining the Chicoutimi Sagueneens last year following an injury while playing for Team Russia at the World Junior Championships, the Flyers reassigned him to Chicoutimi during the NHL preseason. However, the start of his regular season was delayed by paperwork issues to allow him to play Canadian junior hockey again this season.
When all the necessary documents were in order, Rubtsov rejoined the Sagueens; a weaker club than it was a year ago. He played in 11 games, chipping in three goals and eight assists. All the while, there were constant rumors of the now-rebuilding Sagueneens being likely to trade Rubtsov (who will turn 20 on June 27) to a contending team.
Rumors turned to reality on Nov. 2, when Rubtsov was traded to Acadie-Bathurst. Although his two-way game was sound, the offensive totals he produced in 38 games (12g-20a) fell a bit short of pre-trade expectations. There were some mitigating factors: injury-related interruptions, adaptation to a new team and system, positional adjustments (a natural center, he has primarily played right wing for the Titan), the 2017-18 World Junior Championships - where he scored four points (1g-3a) in 5 games - and the overall depth of the Titan roster.
Additionally, it should be kept in mind that today's QMJHL is no longer the ultra high-scoring circuit it was in the past. In fact, it's statistically switched places with the once low-scoring Western Hockey League. The WHL is now the highest-scoring CHL-affiliated league, with the Ontario Hockey League in the middle and the Quebec League as the lowest.
In the "Q" this regular season, there were only two players who topped 100 points and seven 40+ goal scorers. So far in the postseason, no player has more 16 points. By way of comparison, the WHL this season had 18 different players who scored 40 or more goals and nine players with 100 or more points. The Ontario League had four 100+ point-getters and nine 40+ goal scorers.
These factors aside, there is another level to Rubtsov's game that was not consistently on display this season. The offensive side of his potential is more in line with his production in the latter portion of last season following his transfer from the KHL to the Quebec League. He was not as dynamic or aggressive in making plays this season, systemic responsibilities aside. A strong President's Cup final series from Rubtsov on the attack would help the Titan's cause against a powerhouse Blainville-Boisbriand team.
From a Flyers standpoint, the Acadie-Bathurst vs. Blaineville-Boisbriand series holds intrigue even beyond Rubtsov's involvement. There are some bragging rights at stake in this battle for the championship between the league's No. 1 (Armada) and No. 2 (Titan) top clubs during the 2017-18 regular season.
The Armada, who lost in the QMJHL Finals last year to St. John, are operated by former NHL player and former Flyers Development Camp instructor Joel Bouchard. Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere and longtime Flyers fan favorite Danny Briere are among the minority-shareholding partners in the ownership group.
Meanwhile, Sean Couturier's father, former NHL player Sylvain Couturier, is the general manager and longtime driving force executive in the Acadie-Bathurst Titan franchise's ownership. The Flyers' Selke Trophy finalist forward is a minority owner of the team. The street the team's arena in Bathurst is located is called "Sean Couturier Avenue." Although born in Arizona during his father's playing days and having spent his own Quebec League junior hockey career with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Sean was raised in Bathurst and continues to make the town his offseason home.
Below is the QMJHL Final Schedule:
Game 1: Fri May 4 @ Blainville-Boisbriand
Game 2: Sat May 5 @ Blainville-Boisbriand
Game 3: Tue May 8 @ Acadie-Bathurst
Game 4: Wed May 9 @ Acadie-Bathurst
Game 5. Fri May 11 @Blainville-Boisbriand (if necessary)
Game 6: Sun May 13 @ Acadie-Bathurst (if necessary)
Game 7: Tue May 15 @ Blainville-Boisbriand (if necessary)