Subban was the only player missing at the start of the first on-ice session at the Bruins' annual development camp at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday. About 20 minutes into drills, he finally made his way through the boards and onto the rink.
As it turns out, Subban cramped up after the run that was part of the prospects' off-ice testing. He stayed back to ice down and earned a valuable piece of advice from Bruins management.
"We told him to drink a little bit more water on a hot day," Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said jokingly after the workouts.
Subban is the only player with professional experience in development camp this year, so he should be among the group's leaders on and off the ice. The 20-year-old, who was the Bruins' first-round pick (No. 24) in 2012, said he had no qualms about reporting to Wilmington at the Bruins' request despite his pedigree. In fact, he's looking forward to renewing acquaintances with players he's met at prior camps and getting to know some of the newcomers, including 2014 first-round pick, David Pastrnak.
This is Subban's third Bruins development camp.
"It's good. It keeps you sharp for the rest of the summer and it's good to get back on the ice and see the guys," said Subban, whose older brother is Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. "You know it's a fun camp, aside from the run test. It's a fun camp to see the guys here. I wish I brought my Xbox. Some guys were chirping. I know Pastrnak's chirping over there about [playing] NHL. I wish I brought it. We might go get one. We'll see."
After three full seasons of junior hockey with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, Subban made the jump to the pros and played 33 games for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League in 2013-14. He had a 2.31 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in the regular season, and a 2.96 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in six postseason games. Life as a backup goaltender forced Subban to make adjustments.
"It was challenging, to be honest," he said. "When it's something you're not used to, like I'm used to playing a lot of games and being the go-to guy, so it was kind of tough being the secondary guy. But I just had to stay focused mentally. I think that was the hardest thing for me mentally, just to stay focused and to earn my way. And you know you don't play as much, so you know when you get a chance to play you've got to play well, and that's what I tried to do."
Sweeney said it was important to the Bruins that Subban and goaltending coach Bob Essensa spend some time together. Sweeney also said Subban didn't hesitate to execute the Bruins' plans.
"Somebody asked me earlier, why was Malcolm as a pro in this camp? You know he's a young goaltender. We felt that the time he would be able to spend with [Essensa] would be very, very instrumental in continuing with his development," Sweeney said. "He had a really good first year, had some ups and downs and had to fight through some things and try to battle for the net. So I think it's healthy for him to be around kids, really, his own age, to be honest with you, even as a first-year pro. So we're happy that he's here and going to be able to take advantage of that extra time."
With one year of pro hockey, Subban said he's still adjusting to the speed of the game and learning how to combine his athleticism with the structure that is expected from a future NHL goaltender. He should get plenty of ice time in 2014-15 to advance his development.
Last season, he was in a season-long battle for playing time with Niklas Svedberg, who played in 45 games one season after winning the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award as the best goaltender in the AHL. Earlier this summer the Bruins signed Svedberg to a one-year, one-way contract before he could become a restricted free agent. The Bruins then let veteran Chad Johnson leave via free agency for the New York Islanders to open up the backup job behind Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask.
Based on the depth chart, the No. 1 job with Providence is Subban's for the taking. He knows he'll have to earn his playing time and that, based on recent history and organizational depth at his position, the Bruins aren't going to rush him. Boston took its time with Rask when he left Finland for North America. After two full seasons with Providence, Rask seized the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender job from Tim Thomas during the 2009-10 season. Rask, however, didn't regain that job until Thomas left Boston before the 2012-13 season.
Subban also feels that, with an impressive development camp and a standout training camp in the fall, he could force the Bruins to disrupt the natural order of things. Subban's not going to back away from the challenge of climbing ahead of Svedberg on the depth chart but is looking to improve before that even becomes a consideration.
"We'd have to see at camp. Obviously I felt I played really well last year in the [AHL], but things can change. It's a long summer," Subban said. "So I've got to stay sharp over the summer and work hard to get better. Obviously I feel like I have to improve on stuff, so I'm going to try to do that this summer."
Subban can get this summer back on the right track by making sure his play and leadership overshadow his hydration mishap in development camp. Then he might be able to make a more dramatic entrance when NHL camp begins in September.
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