Flyers

Flyers draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov at No. 22 after swapping pair of picks with Jets

Flyers draft Russia U-18 C German Rubtsov at No. 22 after swapping pair of picks with Jets

Updated: Saturday, 12:23 a.m.

The Flyers did not stay put at No. 18 overall in the NHL draft Friday night.

They traded the pick and the 79th selection (third round) to the Jets for the 22nd overall pick and the 36th selection (second round).

At No. 22, the Flyers drafted 17-year-old Russia U-18 center German Rubtsov (6-1/174), who turns 18 on Monday.

Rubtsov, a lefty shot, posted 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 28 games with Russia’s U-18 team during 2015-16.

International Scouting Services ranked him as the 15th-best 2016 draft prospect and he's known as a two-way center with plus hockey smarts.

“We really liked the early part of the second round, so we actually looked at adding a pick, we have two later seconds so we talked about maybe moving up,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said in an interview with NBCSN following the selection. “So when this opportunity came along, actually German was a guy we had in mind and we felt like we’d get him at 22.

“The forward is our priority in this draft and we have a lot of picks so we’ll be drafting more.”

The Flyers now have three picks in the second round with selections 36, 48, 52. The draft finishes Saturday with Rounds 2-7, starting in the morning.

Draft notes
• As expected, Scottsdale, Arizona, native Auston Matthews went No. 1 overall to the Maple Leafs, becoming the seventh U.S.-born player to go as the top pick and the first since 2007.

• An NHL record 12 U.S.-born players were drafted in the first round.

• The Jets took 6-foot-7 Windsor (OHL) defenseman Logan Stanley with the No. 18 overall pick acquired from the Flyers. Stanley is the cousin of Capitals center Michael Latta.

• USNTDP (USHL) left winger Kieffer Bellows, who was popularly tied to the Flyers at No. 18 before Hextall moved back, was drafted No. 19 by the Islanders. Bellows’ father, Brian, was taken No. 2 overall in the 1982 draft and went on to play 17 NHL seasons.

• There were seven trades made during Round 1 of the draft.

Voracek has mixed feelings on Chia Pet giveaway

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USA TODAY

Voracek has mixed feelings on Chia Pet giveaway

Jake Voracek fully expected his own bobblehead as part a promotional giveaway at some point this season.

But using his likeness in the form of a Chia Pet? 

“I had no idea what it was,” Voracek said. “I just knew that something was coming out of that thing. That’s all I knew. What is that grass?”

The Chia Pet is a 1970s phenomenon that has been kept alive for over 40 years now. Chia owners plant seeds on a terra-cotta figurine and over time the chia sprout resembles hair or fur. Over the years, Chia Pets have branched out into cartoon characters and even real people, most notably politicians. 

The trend of Chia hockey players started in March 2016 when the San Jose Sharks unveiled Chia Burns, a promotional giveaway of defenseman Brent Burns noted for his long and scraggly beard.

The Flyers marketing department decided a promotional campaign centered around a Chia Pet and Voracek’s hairy qualities would be ideal. Fans attending Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers will receive their very own Voracek Chia Pet when they walk through the doors. 

“I was looking at it saying ‘Alright, we’ll see how it goes,’" said Voracek.

However, the Flyers star winger has limitations.

“I’m not going to have one at home, that’s for sure,” Voracek said. “I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that.”

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Flyers' forward depth being tested early

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Flyers' forward depth being tested early

Did the Flyers run into a red hot Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday, or was it worth reading between the lines — as in Dave Hakstol’s lines? 

The significance of Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights was this: It marked the first time in 61 regular season games the Flyers had been shut out dating back to a 3-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 2, 2017.

It was after that game that Dave Hakstol resorted to breaking up the most productive line in hockey when Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek had accounted for a whopping 43 percent of the Flyers’ offensive production at even strength, including an NHL-leading 25 goals between them.  

Hakstol at that time was desperate for change. He had heard the “Fire Hakstol” chants raining down from the Wells Fargo Center as his team had just dropped their tenth straight game and were shutout for the sixth time in their first 26 games. The Flyers' record stood at 8-11-7 while sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Despite the ten-game winless stretch, the message from the coach and general manager Ron Hextall was the Flyers weren’t playing that poorly, but they also weren’t receiving the necessary breaks needed to win a game.  

Still, Saturday’s shutout to Vegas was a glimpse into what we saw a year ago, which raises a very important and vital question: Can the Flyers survive offensively when the big three of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek doesn’t crack the scoresheet playing on the same line? 

Prior to last season’s split, the answer was a definitive "no." The Flyers managed to win just one game, a 2-1 home victory against Edmonton, when that top line failed to produce an even strength goal. However, it was Giroux who opened the scoring with a power play goal.

“I don’t think we feel more pressure, but we’re just kinda the guys that need to step up offensively and the team relies on us to produce,” Couturier said. “I think it’s just more confidence than anything and that we’ll create chances every night.”

I agree with Couturier’s assertion that those superstars don’t feel additional pressure, but I sense there’s pressure placed on the secondary players when that top line is having an off night. 

Coming into this season with the addition of James van Riemsdyk and the emergence of players like Mikhail Vorobyev and Oskar Lindblom, the Flyers appeared stacked within their forward group. 

But it’s not until a team is faced with injuries that they’re forced to find out exactly what that depth looks like. Right now, no lines changes are expected for Tuesday’s game against the Panthers. Jordan Weal is the Flyers’ second-line center until Nolan Patrick returns, with Vorobyev centering the third line. The 21-year-old rookie has hit a wall with no points and no shots on net over his last three games.

“It can help us grow under stress,” Hakstol said. “It can help guys get in the lineup and play a little different role, play a little larger role and prove they can help us win games. Those individuals have to get in and be part of a lineup, that wins hockey games.”

Hakstol believes the Flyers could have executed better and shot a little more, but overall, the team played a much more complete and structured game in a 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights than they did in a 5-2 victory in Vegas.

As Hakstol knows, eventually the process has to yield results, or the first two months of this season will start to look eerily similar to last year.

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