Pod Street Prospects Journal: German Rubtsov, Jay O’Brien, and More

After the first attempt at this weekly segment, I did some thinking about what I wanted to be accomplished with this column. Try number one resulted in a piece filled with bite-sized news and information regarding Philadelphia Flyers prospects. Although it worked fine, it also provided readers with information and takes they can easily find on Twitter. Similar to Pod Street Bullies as a whole, I want this segment to be more than that. So, because I can, I decided to flip the script. Instead of a weekly look at prospect news, the “Pod Street Prospects Journal” now takes the form of a more personal take on the prospect world, both in Philadelphia’s farm system and at large. With most of my work, readers receive unbiased, informative analysis. Of course, I will never stray far from those ideals. However, once a week, we will take a journey down the old stream of consciousness. Enjoy!

Pod Street Prospects Journal: Entry One

Regarding organizational rankings…

In the hockey prospect realm, we love to rank a franchise’s farm system. It is a practice you can find at almost any outlet serious about prospects. Personally, I’ve always struggled with ranking prospects within an organization. Although I understand the intention, I can’t help but wonder if it actually accomplishes anything of value.

Take, for example, the Columbus Blue Jackets. EP Rinkside assessed their farm system and determined that Liam Foudy is their number one prospect. No disrespect to Foudy, but he might not even crack the top-five of some franchises’ rankings. It’s like the shiny middle area of a big old bald spot. Yes, it provides a little “pop,” but it’s still a bald spot. Now I’m not saying organizational rankings serve no purpose at all. It’s fun to see who stands out amongst the pack. At the same time, they can serve as a misinterpretation of the overall value of one’s prospect pool unless you’ve completed extensive homework on your own.

Anyway, I digress.

Regarding German Rubtsov…

In any draft, there are always more missed swings than home runs. Sadly, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Four years removed from his draft year, it is easy to chalk up selecting German Rubtsov in the first round as a big whiff. With any first-rounder, you’re hoping for an impact player in some capacity. Unfortunately, Rubtsov constantly proves he doesn’t have what it takes. Could he survive in a fourth-line role? I guess. The same could also be said for more than half the forwards on the farm, though.

He likely stays put in the KHL for the remainder of this season. I’m willing to go further and say I think he stays put in Russia longer after this wild hockey year comes to a close. Chuck Fletcher isn’t married to him and might value him far less than Ron Hextall did. On the flipside, Rubtsov might enjoy playing professionally in his home country. The KHL is no beer league, and the 22-year-old forward might picture a brighter future with more opportunity there.

Regarding Jay O’Brien…

Speaking of possible swings and misses… The inability to play a regular stretch of games could not come at a worse time for Jay O’Brien. Set to return to NCAA play this year with Boston University, the pandemic has prevented any games from being played thus far. One can only imagine the impact this is having on his development and his psyche. O’Brien already faced an uphill battle in terms of turning things around. Now that hill looks a bit more like a mountain.

It’s a bit unfair, but I’m ready to throw in the towel on O’Brien. I don’t see him being placed in a situation where he can accomplish enough to make Fletcher bring him aboard. Yes, that can change with one strong year at the collegiate level. Still, I’m not convinced that’s in the cards for the Thayer Academy alum.

Regarding Ron Hextall…

Discussing Rubtsov and O’Brien has me thinking. Do we bestow too much praise upon former GM Ron Hextall and his draft wizardry? I agree with applauding his ability to find gems in the later round. At the same time, there are a few misses in particularly round one of the draft. Rubtsov is an interesting case. Even though Hextall traded back, targeting him as the pick. Not too many other players stand out that were drafted in that range. It’s hard to play the “he should have drafted” game. In the case of O’Brien, Hextall got overconfident. That pick was considered a reach the moment it occurred, and there were certainly better pieces available. He is also responsible for drafting Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost in the first round. Maybe I’m over-critical in this case.

Regarding Felix Sandstrom…

Here is a prospect that has fallen out of favor a bit that I’m still holding out hope on. Yes, last season was forgettable to say the least. Nobody, including Felix Sandstrom, expected him to struggle the way he did, especially in the ECHL. However, it takes more than one bad year for a highly regarded goalie prospect to lose my confidence. Goaltenders, more than any other position, must respond well to adversity. Bad periods or games happen. It’s all about how you respond that demonstrates whether you have what it takes. I want to see how he responds this season, if he ever gets the chance to play in Lehigh Valley. For now, he still has starting goalie potential in my book.

Regarding the World Junior Championship…

I’ve already taken a deep dive into what Flyers fans should watch out for during the World Juniors this year. At this moment, I want to say watch it. It is a fascinating showcase of the game’s up and comers, and every game is available on the NHL Network. With very little hockey being played elsewhere, it’s the perfect way to get your hockey fix during the holiday season.

Well, that took me down a rabbit hole I was not expecting to travel down. Funny what can happen when you start writing with very little pre-article brainstorming. Anyway, I hope you learned something. At the very least, I hope it got you thinking. Until next time, bye now!

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