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Canucks' Subban hopes to create own niche

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- It didn't take long before the questions directed at Vancouver Canucks prospect Jordan Subban during development camp focused more on his older brothers.

It never does.

He plays defenseman, the same position as Norris Trophy-winning sibling and Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban, so comparisons are inevitable. With middle brother Malcolm Subban coming off his first pro season as a goaltender in the Boston Bruins organization, the questions about family are never far off.

To be clear, none of that bothers the youngest Subban.


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"I am used to it by now," Jordan said, adding most of the questions are about P.K. "He's my brother, so I love to talk about him, and it's great to see him have success, but at the same time I am me."

Like big brother P.K., Jordan is a dynamic offensive defenseman with smooth skating and slick puck skills. But there are differences beyond the undersized 5-foot-9 frame that dropped Jordan into the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

If P.K. is trying to shoot it through the net, Jordan is trying to put it in off the bottom of the crossbar. If P.K. is looking to blow up an opposing forward with a big hit, Jordan is trying to poke the puck away with an active, longer than normal stick. It could be said Jordan's game is more subtle and cerebral, but that wouldn't be doing justice to his passion to play and ability to excite.

Canucks prospect Brendan Gaunce saw Subban's impact firsthand playing parts of three seasons as his teammate on the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He's pretty electric and he loves to play hockey," said Gaunce, who was traded to the Erie Otters in November. "It's important to have guys on your team that are charismatic. You can see how P.K. conducts himself, he's very excited to play hockey and he shows it on the ice and wears his heart on his sleeve, and I think Jordan is the same way. He has the skills to be exuberant on the ice and he likes to bring people out of their seats and he loves to score."

Jordan Subban's production didn't dip dramatically on the rebuilding Bulls last season. After scoring 15 goals and 36 assists in 68 games before the Canucks picked him 115th in the draft, Subban had 12 goals and 30 assists in 66 games last season. Belleville went from the top of the OHL Eastern Conference in 2012-13 to second-to-last in 2013-14, sliding 43 points in the standings and trading away top-end talent, including Gaunce.

"You never want to play on a team that loses more than you win, but we had a young team and I think a lot of the young guys learned a lot," said Subban, who has focused on improving defensive play that was questioned by some in his draft year. "I was put in more of a leadership role."

It's a role that is expected to expand during a fourth season of junior hockey with the same Belleville team his brothers played on. Subban, 19, isn't old enough to play in the American Hockey League and isn't ready to crack the Canucks defense, but he is preparing physically for the transition to pro hockey after next season.

"He's a lot stronger," said Canucks director of player development Stan Smyl. "It's really interesting; he says his bothers grew like an inch since they got drafted and he's at that stage. He's growing and he has leaned out so much more since last year as a player."

Some of that comes from the work done at two development camps with the Canucks, and weekly follow-ups from the training staff in Vancouver. But having two brothers already playing pro hockey has helped Jordan find the balance between bulking up and maintaining the speed and finesse that set him apart.

Jordan, who works out with P.K at Laylor Performance Systems in Toronto during the summer, estimated he's added "probably 10 pounds at least" since being listed at 175 pounds at the draft.

"There's a certain weight you want to get to, but getting there too fast can be more harmful than good," Jordan said. "But with my brothers and having all these opinions around me I'll never get to the point where I put on too much weight and slow myself down at all."

Having older brothers already playing pro hockey ensures Jordan has a good example to follow.

"It's more the commitment," Jordan said, citing nutrition as an example. "Everybody knows what's good and not good to put in our body, but it's being able to consistently put the right things in your body, and I see my brothers do it and I see they have success, and it shows me the level of commitment I need to have success too."

It's a benefit of famous older brothers that might trump having to answer all those questions about them.

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