Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Ruben Rafkin.
Finnish defenceman Ruben Rafkin was selected by the Windsor Spitfires with the 14th overall pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He came to the OHL and put up four goals and 27 assists for 31 points in 59 games this season. Rafkin was also named to the OHL’s All-Rookie Team. He also played three games for Finland at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, recording one assist in three tournament games.
Last season, Rafkin played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. He put up two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 38 games. He also played for Finland at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. Rafkin scored a goal and an assist for two points, helping the Finns to a silver medal. He also played three games at the European Youth Olympic Festival, picking up one assist and helping the Finnish team to a Bronze medal. Overall he played 18 games with the Finnish Under-17 team, scoring two goals and six assists for eight points.
In April, Rafkin announced that he will not return to the Spitfires next season. He has chosen to return to Finland to play for TPS Turku in the SM-Liiga.
Ruben Rafkin Scouting Report
Defence — shoots Right
Born January 8th, 2002 — Turku, Finland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 190 lbs [182 cm/86 kg]
Rafkin is a very good skater. He shows good speed in both directions and reaches this quickly with excellent acceleration. His first step is also very good. Rafkin shows excellent lateral agility. This helps him to stay in front of attackers and maintain gap control. It also helps him walk the line and open up opportunities in the offensive zone. His edgework and pivots are also solid. Rafkin can transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Rafkin is solidly built. He is strong on the boards and in winning battles in front of the net. He can continue to add muscle to his frame, which will help him play this style of game at the pro level.
Rafkin is quick to retrieve dump-ins and loose pucks in his own end. He can skate away from forecheckers and get the puck out of the defensive zone. He is also able to lead the transition game and is successful at creating good zone entries at the offensive end. Rafkin is also able to make smart passes in transition. He head-mans the puck effectively, setting up transition opportunities for his team. In the offensive zone, he is decent at making passes at the blue line but is generally pretty safe with the puck. Rafkin is not the type to make a lot of creative plays to set up chances. Instead, he makes the smart play to keep the puck moving.
Rafkin does a good job of moving laterally to open up shooting lanes. His slap shot is decent but not great. It is hoped that as he continues to add strength, it will become stronger and more of a threat from the point. Rafkin also has a decent wrist shot when he pinches in from the point. However, he could work on developing a quicker release. This would help him to be more dangerous on the power play.
The strength of Rafkin’s game is his defensive play. He uses his strong skating to maintain excellent gap control and keep himself between attackers and the net. Rafkin stands up attackers at the blue line and does a good job of preventing successful zone entries. He also forces attackers to the outside and away from good shooting areas. Rafkin is willing to play physical when necessary but is disciplined in not getting himself out of position. However, he will need to be more disciplined in not taking penalties. He is good away from the puck as well, cutting off passing lanes and staying in good position. Rafkin is also willing to block shots. His ability to transition the puck quickly out of the zone, helps him to reduce zone time against.
Projection and Comparison
Rafkin is a solid defensive player and can develop into an important defender at the NHL level if he reaches his potential. He will need to add strength and continue rounding out his game. While Rafkin is good in transition, his offensive ability in the zone is a bit of a question mark and its unclear if he will ever contribute on the power play at the next level. His game is reminiscent of Carl Gunnarsson, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Ruben Rafkin that are available on youtube and twitter.
— Tate Harris (@tateharris9) December 6, 2019
— Tate Harris (@tateharris9) January 31, 2020
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) October 18, 2019
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) October 18, 2019
Love this sequence from Ruben Rafkin (2020). He has a man on him at his own blue line. Rafkin does not force it. He waits and flips around. Waits for Jean-Luc Foudy (2020) and delivers a tap pass to Foudy to have Foudy take the puck up the ice. Smart play by Rafkin.#2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/Sja4S6mTWc
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 24, 2020
HIGHLIGHTS presented by @CCHST: Eight goals from eight different skaters – including @OHLHockey firsts for Ruben Rafkin & Dylan Robinson – added up to a big home win over @StingHockey on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/AfYbOkSx1a
— Windsor Spitfires (@SpitsHockey) October 13, 2019
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Ruben Rafkin Main Photo:
WINDSOR, ONTARIO – FEBRUARY 20: Defenseman Ruben Rafkin #88 of the Windsor Spitfires skates against the London Knights at WFCU Centre on February 20, 2020, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)