Interview: Anton Rubtsov’s Travels Take Him To Alaska

Anton Rubtsov is well-traveled. The Russian-born forward has played hockey in his native country, as well as Latvia, Sweden, and now in the United States where he’s in his second season with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the NAHL.

Earlier this week, Rubtsov committed to Alaska-Fairbanks.

The 1999-born forward has three points in six games this season after a 33-point rookie season for the Mudbugs last year.

“He’s a puck possession forward with speed and hockey sense to find open ice and skates to space,” our scouts said. “He controlled the puck here and showed off his quick hands and quick release in the offensive zone. He has a quick first step and is able to pull away from opponents in the neutral zone. He’s light on his feet, agile and was able to maneuver his way through traffic.”

NZ: What first got you into hockey?

Rubtsov: “My parents brought me into hockey. I actually started figure skating, and did that for about a year, and then moved from there to hockey when I was about five years old.”

NZ: You’ve had a lot of exposure playing in different countries. What has that experience been like?

Rubtsov: “I was living and playing in Russia until I was about 15 years old. Then I had the opportunity to play for a year in Latvia and after that, I played in Sweden. I think all that experience helped me a lot. In different countries, you get exposed to different styles of hockey and it helped me learn how to adjust my game everywhere I went.”

NZ: What do you feel like your strengths are as a player?

Rubtsov: “I would say that my strengths are in my skills and vision. I can make plays and see the ice well. I try to use my stick skills as much as I can.”

NZ: When you moved to the U.S., was the goal to play college hockey?

Rubtsov: “Yes, my goal was to play in the U.S. and continue my studies and play college hockey. That was my first goal.”

NZ: We see a lot Swedish players playing college hockey in the U.S. now, and there are more and more coming from Eastern Europe. Do you think more players from Russia are seeing college hockey as a good opportunity?

Rubtsov: “Yes, I think so, for sure. Players from Russia are learning more about college hockey because more pro players are coming from college hockey. You get a lot of exposure playing college hockey and you get to continue your education, which sets you up for whatever your plans are after hockey. I think we would all like to play pro, but if that does not work out, you have your education.”

NZ: What attracted you to Alaska-Fairbanks?

Rubtsov: “I knew one of the coaches really well (Karlis Zirnis). He is from Latvia, and we could speak Russian, so that was helpful for me. He has helped me a lot with college hockey, giving me advice and helping me through the process. So I was comfortable with him because I knew him and then I think it’s a good Division I program to go play for, it’s in a great place, so I am excited.”

NZ: Have you visited the campus?

Rubtsov: “Yes, I was there about a week ago for a game, and I loved it. It’s a great place to be.”

NZ: What have been the biggest adjustments for you here in the U.S.? Especially playing now in the NAHL.

Rubtsov: “It’s been great so far. I really enjoy playing here and I have learned a lot, too. The biggest adjustment for me was the physicality. That’s what the NAHL South is known for, and the games are very physical. I have had to play a lot faster, too. I think that will help me when I get to college because the game will be faster.”

NZ: What was the development like in Latvia and Sweden, and even in Russia? I’ve heard overseas there is less emphasis on games and more on skill development.

Rubtsov: “Yeah, I would agree with that. The players are all very skilled and that’s because we would work on skills constantly. We would also work a lot on skating, so all the players there are great skaters. There is a lot of work on skills, especially in Sweden when I was there.”

NZ: How has your family reacted to your world travels? I imagine that has to be tough on your family with you being away so much.

Rubtsov: “In the beginning, it was very hard, but I think I’ve gotten used to it because it has been a while now. I still call my parents every other day just to check-in and talk to them. It’s something we have gotten used to. They are excited that I am going to study and play hockey.”