With the Bruins announcing their Development Camp roster, we’re taking a look at some of the prospects who will be attending this year's practices. We’re sticking in the crease today and taking a look at Malcolm Subban, who many consider the Bruins’ top prospect.
In football, prospects can sometimes be positioned as “athletes,” players with raw talent, but no clear match as to where they’ll fit in. Julian Edelman plays on both sides of the ball for the Patriots. Heisman winning quarterback Eric Crouch once made it to the league in a short stint as a wide receiver before fading into obscurity.
The concept isn’t completely analogous to hockey, where there are far fewer positions, but in goalie prospect Malcolm Subban, the appeal has always been his freakish athleticism and raw talent, while coaches have tried to fill in the rest of the pieces along the way.
Coming from a hockey family (older brother P.K. is well known in the Bruins community, while younger brother Jordan is a Vancouver Canucks prospect), it’s been a life of hockey for Malcolm, who was selected by the Bruins with the No. 24 overall selection of the 2012 NHL Draft.
And when the Bruins made the pick, Subban was very much considered a project. No one will ever question his talent or potential. He can get from post-to-post with lightning quickness. His swiftness also allows himself to challenge just about any shot, even if it seems he surely is beaten.
The key now for Subban, who will compete for an NHL roster spot this summer, is to hammer out the technical elements of the position. At times, he’s overly aggressive, taking himself out of angles and into poor position. If Subban can get to a point where he’s not relying on his athleticism, but using it as an asset, he’ll make that leap to NHL starter.
More than anything, Subban needs to be playing consistent hockey this season; it’s what is best for his development at his stage. He appeared in 33 games last year for the Providence Bruins, splitting time with Niklas Svedberg, who made 45 starts.
With Tuukka Rask as the clear starter, the Bruins will be faced with a few questions moving forward. Svedberg is on a one-year, one-way contract, but in no way does that assure him a spot as Rask’s backup. With Chad Johnson gone, it opens the door for both Svedberg and Subban to compete for the No. 2 role in training camp, although Subban may be best served getting consistent playing time down in the AHL.
And if that’s what Peter Chiarelli’s plan was all along, it seems pretty logical. If Svedberg and Subban had remained in Providence this upcoming season, it would have been difficult to give the latter enough playing time to grow as a player. Subban needs the reps and the in-game experience to continue to become more grounded as a goalie.
Ultimately, there’s no guarantee Subban doesn’t make the Bruins' NHL roster out of camp. If Svedberg doesn’t have a strong showing, and Subban plays like the more effective backup, he could win the job outright.
There’s also no use in speculating on whether or not Subban is an attractive trade chip. A 20-year-old with the potential to be a franchise goaltender could fetch a big haul, but the goalie position is quite fickle. Rask, coming off a Vezina year, certainly shows no signs of slowing down, and has another seven years and $50 million remaining on his contract. But organizational depth is never a bad thing, and holding on to Subban could pay dividends down the road.
In the meantime, as the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s incumbent upon the Bruins to find a way to get Subban in game situations as often as possible. Subban’s .920 save percentage in his first professional season is an encouraging sign. If he can sustain that level with an increased workload is probably the next question he faces.