Future Flyers Report: What German Rubtsov's entry-level contract means

Future Flyers Report: What German Rubtsov's entry-level contract means

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we examine the Flyers' 2016 first-round pick's entry-level contract and what it means as well as check in on another Russian who could be coming over soon.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
It was only a matter of time before Rubtsov inked his entry-level contract after coming over to North America from Russia in January. Last Thursday, that agreement came to fruition. Rubtsov signed a standard 18-year-old ELC -- three years with a maximum $925,000 annual average value. Let's dig in to explain what this means for his AHL eligibility.

There was some confusion last week when Rubtsov signed his contract about his AHL eligibility. Let's clear that up. Teenage players who play in the CHL when they are drafted are ineligible for the AHL until they are 20 years old, or have completed four years in a major junior league, according to the collective bargaining agreement. Because Rubtsov was drafted out of Russia, he is eligible to play in the AHL … even as an 18-year-old.

What does this mean for Rubtsov? Could we see him playing for the Phantoms at some point this season, or could we see him playing in Lehigh Valley in 2017-18? Yes and yes -- both are possibilities but do not appear to be likely. Remember, Rubtsov did not earn a significant role in the KHL this season and played sparingly there. While he's enjoying a torrid start to his QMJHL career with the Saguenéens, the Flyers will likely want him to have more than 23 games in the Q before joining the AHL or NHL. The safe bet here is the Flyers will keep Rubtsov at Chicoutimi until the 2018-19 season, but that's not set in stone.

As for what Rubtsov did on the ice last week for the Saguenéens, the 18-year-old continued to turn heads with his quick adjustment to the North American game. Rubtsov added two more goals and an assist in three games, bringing his goal total up to nine, five of which have come on the power play, and point total to 22 in 16 games thus far. He's been held pointless in just three games so far in the QMJHL. If he began the year in the Q, it'd be more realistic to believe he'd at least start next season with the Phantoms instead of another year in junior.

Mikhail Vorobyov, C, 6-2/207, Salavat Yulaev (KHL)
Another Russian prospect could be making the jump overseas, as Vorobyov's season came to an end last week when Salavat Yulaev lost in the KHL playoffs. Shortly after Salavat's exit, reports started circulating that Vorobyov began negotiations with the Flyers.

There are a couple possibilities here. He could come over on an amateur tryout contract -- much like Oskar Lindblom did last season -- and play the rest of the season with the Phantoms, and then return to the KHL next season should he decide to return to Russia for another season. He is a restricted free agent in the KHL, so he would have to sign another contract. There was speculation in late January he was interested in coming overseas next season, so the Flyers could be discussing an entry-level contract with Vorobyov as well.

Vorobyov, a 2015 fourth-round pick, finished the 2016-17 season with three goals and 11 points in 44 games with Salavat Yulaev. Not eye-popping numbers on the surface, but considering as a 20-year-old in the KHL -- a league that is not kind to young players as evidenced with Rubtsov -- he averaged nearly 10 minutes, his numbers do impress.

As a largely unknown prospect playing in Russia, Vorobyov may fall under the radar by some people, but the Flyers appear to be high on the center. Factor in his impressive showing at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships and you can understand why. It would not surprise anyone to see Vorobyov finish out the season at Lehigh Valley on either an amateur tryout or signing his entry-level contract by the end of the week.

Mark Friedman, D, 5-11/191, Bowling Green (NCAA)
Friedman's junior season lives to see another weekend, as the Falcons advanced to the semifinals of the WCHA Tournament after disposing of Ferris State in the four-five matchup last weekend with wins Friday and Saturday night to win the best-of-three series, 2-0.

The 21-year-old picked up two assists during the quarterfinals round, picking up an apple on the game-winning goal in Bowling Green's 6-1 win on Friday and a helper on an empty-netter in Saturday's 5-3 win. Friedman's junior campaign should have him in the running for the WCHA's Defensive Player of the Year honor with Minnesota State's Daniel Brickley and Bowling Green teammate Sean Walker. Friedman has eight goals, 17 assists, and 25 points in 37 games. His 25 points are second in the WCHA behind Brickley's 30.

There has been some chatter Friedman will consider forgoing his senior season to sign his entry-level contract and turn pro. Unlike prospects playing in major juniors, collegiate prospects cannot sign a contract and remain in college -- once they sign, they have to leave. Bowling Green's season could come to an end as early as this weekend, which means we could get an answer on Friedman as early as next week. If Friedman decides to depart Bowling Green once its season ends, he could join Lehigh Valley for its playoff push.

Friedman could also decide to forgo his senior season and sign his ELC this summer, which may make more sense for the Toronto, Ontario, native because of playing time. There is a general consensus at least one of the prospects playing at Lehigh Valley will make the jump to the Flyers next season, which would open up more playing time at the AHL level.

Wade Allison, RW, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison wrapped up the regular season portion of his freshman campaign at Western Michigan last weekend with an assist in each of No. 8 WMU's games against No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth as the Broncos split the weekend series with the Bulldogs. WMU will be the 3-seed in the NCHC Tournament beginning this weekend, with a best-of-three series with 6-seed Omaha. Allison, one of the Flyers' three 2016 second-round picks, is enjoying a productive first season in college, scoring 11 goals and getting 26 points in 32 games.

Quick hits
• With Harvard, the No. 2 team in the country, being the 1-seed in the ECAC Tournament, the Crimson had the weekend off last weekend. Merrick Madsen (2.16 GAA, .919 save percentage) will lead Harvard against No. 8 Yale this weekend in the quarterfinals.

• Everett goalie Carter Hart was 1-1-1 last week, allowing seven goals on 74 shots faced. He's 28-9-8 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and eight shutouts in 48 games this season. Hart leads the WHL in GAA, save percentage and shutouts.

Philippe Myers had a four-assist week for Rouyn-Noranda, picking up a pair of assists last Tuesday and Friday nights. He has eight goals and 18 assists in 28 games this season.

• Kitchener's Connor Bunnaman registered his 30th and 31st goals last week, while also picking up two assists in four games for the Rangers. You can see his 31st goal here.

Anthony Salinitri of the Sarnia Sting added a goal and two assists in four games last week, with a goal and an assist on Saturday night in a 5-3 win over the Erie Otters.

• Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg an injury late in the second period of Lehigh Valley's 5-4 win over Springfield on Friday night and missed Saturday and Sunday nights. Lehigh Valley has yet to announce how long Hagg is out, but according to Highland Park Hockey, the outlook does not appear to be too promising for the 22-year-old blueliner.

Anthony Stolarz allowed four goals last Friday against Springfield on 48 shots. It was his third straight game allowing four goals. In his last seven games, Stolarz has allowed four goals three times, two goals twice, five goals once and seven goals once. He's been in a funk.

• On the other hand, Alex Lyon had an excellent game Saturday as Lehigh Valley beat Hartford, 3-1. His 32-save performance earned him the start Sunday. Lyon, however, was pulled after allowing four goals on 24 shots in the Phantoms' 7-3 loss to Providence. In relief, Stolarz allowed two goals on 12 shots. 

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here