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For Subban, Honing His Craft Comes in Different Forms

by Eric Russo / Boston Bruins

PROVIDENCE, R.I.Malcolm Subban grew up in a family full of defensemen.

His older brother P.K. has developed into a Norris Trophy-winning blueliner for the Montreal Canadiens, while his younger brother Jordan is a defenseman in the Vancouver Canucks’ system.

And for the first several years of his youth hockey career, Malcolm, too, spent his time patrolling the blue line. It wasn’t until he was 12 years old that Subban decided he wanted to make the full-time switch to goaltender.

“I always wanted to play goalie,” said Subban. “My dad [Karl] was my coach and we were all defensemen, so he wasn’t too fond of me switching to goaltender. 

“But I love the position.”

With good reason.

Subban established himself as an elite goaltender at the junior level and was subsequently drafted by Boston with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. The 22-year-old Toronto native recently concluded his third season with the Providence Bruins, for whom he has won 45 games during that span.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Subban, who went 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage this season before missing the final two months with a fractured larynx.

“We’re fortunate enough to be in a great city, one of the greatest AHL cities you can play in. Great fan base here – a lot of fans – so that always helps to get ready for every game.

“It’s a great staff here, great organization. I’ve been on a great team with a great group of guys every year, so that obviously helps a lot.”

The basis for his success, however, began as a child, when Don Cherry’s “Rock’Em Sock’Em Hockey” videos – along with his hockey-adoring family – were Subban’s prime source of hockey influence.

“It was sort of a connection that we had between my brothers and my dad – all loving the game – watching Don Cherry tapes,” said Subban.

Subban also paid close attention to his idols, former New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and current New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

“When I wasn’t a goaltender I liked to watch Brodeur,” said Subban. “Lundqvist was my first idol after my first season, or during my first season [as a goalie], when he won the Olympics [for Sweden] in 2006.

“That was when I started watching him. I wore No. 30 [because of him] pretty much all the way up until Providence.”

Subban still keeps an eye on Lundqvist, but also pays close attention to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and Boston teammate Tuukka Rask. Having Rask at his disposal on a regular basis is an advantage Subban tries to benefit from as much as possible.

“You go up [to Boston] and watch him firsthand in practice, watch his habits,” said Subban, who played one game with Boston during the 2014-15 campaign.

“He’s a great goaltender. I don’t think people give him enough credit. He’s a really good goaltender, really good technically, but he can still make a lot of big saves.

“Obviously you like to watch goalies who play a similar style to you. [Those are] the goalies you look up to in the NHL because that’s what you aspire to be.”

So what is Malcolm Subban’s style?

“I think I’m a really athletic guy,” said Subban. “When I started [playing] goalie late it helped me with my athleticism, not too technical, but I’ve been working on the technical side a lot.

“But definitely I think my biggest asset is my athleticism, just being able to get across the crease really fast.”

Having missed the final 31 games of the season due to injury, Subban has work to do to get back in game shape. As the offseason kicks in, that will be his main area of focus.

But shoring up the technical side of his game is a broader goal, which if achieved, Subban believes, will lead to a permanent job at the NHL level in the not-so-distant future.

“I feel like playing in the NHL, you look at the goalies, they all stop the puck but they all have really good positioning, good depth control, good gap control, rebound control,” said Subban. 

“I think those are the sides of my game that I can always improve on. That will help me a lot to become an NHL goaltender.”

Those defenseman instincts won’t hurt, either.

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