You're all going to be real mad at me, aren't you? Too bad, so sad. Look at me... I am the captain now.
The Red Wings need depth across the chart. Many fans have been calling for them to target a blue-chip defenseman in the first-round in hopes that he could take on a primary role in the team's top-pair in the near future. While that could be Detroit's actual plan this year, I decided to pass on names like Charlie McAvoy and Jake Bean for one guy that I have been all heart-eyed over for quite some time.
With the 16th overall pick in the 2016 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, the Detroit Red Wings take German Rubtsov out of Chekhov, Russia.
Here's the scoop on Rubtsov
As the unequivocal top Russian prospect in the 2016 NHL Draft class, when I saw that Rubtsov was available, I didn't think twice. The way Rubtsov plays the game fits into the Red Wings' scheme almost perfect. He's a dynamic, tenacious two-way center that possess, distribute, and finish with the puck. From top-to-bottom, Rubtsov has shown that not only can he be a defensive specialist in any situation, he can provide high-octane offense using his exceptional vision, ability to use creativity, and tremendous shot velocity.
I don't want to make any lofty comparisons, but the way German Rubtsov has performed with Russia's U18 team in the MHL, he really has flashes of Pavel Datsyuk in him. While perhaps not on the dangling-piano-playing maestro level, Rubtsov backchecks and forechecks like some sort of hockey hellion. The way he plays a 200-foot game makes him 'Prototype A' for the Red Wings system. A gifted athlete, with magnificent work ethic and commitment.
Scout’s quote from Future Considerations:
“He plays a 200-foot game, aware of his defensive duties and is always in good position to retrieve the puck, covering his man tightly in his own zone. A skilled playmaker who can make skilled passes to his linemates or take the puck himself. In the end, the uncontested best Russian prospect this year.”
Scandal, "red flags," etc.
There are some questions, of course. First one is the entire Meldonium scandal, in which the entirety of Russia's U18 team was replaced in the World Championship. It's important to remember that this was not the sole action of any player. This was a widespread scandal across many Russian teams in all different sports. You can read more about it here. I don't really care to judge this kid's character on this.
Keep in mind, Rubtsov at the combine that he will be playing Major Junior Hockey next year. He'll be a high-pick in the import draft. There is no "Russian Factor" here.
Strengths vastly outweigh weaknesses
The NHL Central Scouting Service last had German Rubtsov listed as 6'2" 178 lbs. At the Combine he was 6'0.5" 190 lbs. Before you speculate, I believe this was just a simple discrepancy with the NHL's data. So, he has certainly bulked up. He's a strong lad, in fact, if you stroll over to PPP, you can see the Draft Combine Results. Rubtsov finished tied for second in bench press reps (70-80% of body weight) at 14, just one shy of the leader (Samuel Girard) at 15. I don't necessarily put a lot of stock into bench press results, but hey, it's something to note.
Among scouts, one of Rubtsov's biggest weaknesses is his ability with faceoffs. Thankfully for him, this is something that can be vastly improved with coaching and development. Outside of that, he'll get bigger, playing in North America will teach him that he needs to play with a bit more "snarl" to his game. As he develops, his tendency to use the body more consistently will come about.
At the end of the day, German Rubtsov is a complete 200-foot player. A proficient defensive player, and an adept playmaker. I see him as a top-six NHL center one day - An asset that you can never have too many of. That's why I took him over names like McAvoy, Bean, or Fabbro. Plus, I mean, who doesn't love Russian players?
I wrote more about German Rubtsov in our Draft Profile Series, which you can read here. Video highlights included.