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Subban says he's still one of top defensemen in NHL for Devils

31-year-old confident 'there's better things to come,' including Stanley Cup, second Norris Trophy

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P.K. Subban said he remains among the elite at his position despite struggling during his first season with the New Jersey Devils.

"In my opinion, I'm still one of the top defensemen in the League," Subban said in an interview with Men's Journal on Wednesday, his 31st birthday. "When I'm in the biggest games, the biggest moments, I feel that I'm one of the players that teams would love to have on their team and that they can rely on, and that's always been my game.

"I want to win everything every year. That's what you train for. If I didn't have the mindset of trying to be the best at what I do every day, then what's the point of doing it. You might as well retire."

Subban, voted the 2013 Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the NHL, scored 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) and six power-play points (two goals, four assists), and was minus-21 in 68 games when the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

He was acquired by the Devils in a trade with the Nashville Predators for defenseman Steven Santini, defenseman prospect Jeremy Davies and two draft picks June 22. Subban scored 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists), his fewest since becoming an NHL regular in 2010-11, in 63 games for the Predators last season and has this season and two more left on an eight-year, $72 million contract (average annual value $9 million) he signed with the Montreal Canadiens on Aug. 2, 2014.

Video: SJS@NJD: Subban rips home PPG to give Devils lead

Subban was traded to the Predators by the Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29, 2016. He played for Nashville in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, a six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and helped the Predators go 53-18-11 the following season to win the Presidents' Trophy.

"I think that the past two years, definitely, have been different experiences," Subban said. "When you're on a team like Nashville that's got one Presidents' Trophy, Stanley Cup Finals, conference finals, winning divisions, and then going to [New Jersey, which] hasn't made the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] or has made it one year and out, and is a younger team, it's just a different situation.

"So it's an adjustment, but I definitely believe that there's better things to come for me in my career, whether it's winning a Norris Trophy or Stanley Cup."

The Devils (28-29-12) trail the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets by 13 points for a wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The youngest team in the NHL (average age 25.9 years) was 19-16-8 and No. 1 in penalty-killing (86 percent) since Alain Nasreddine replaced John Hynes as coach Dec. 3.

"Before you think about what we need, think about what we're getting now," Subban said. "We're getting another year of experience. Whether we play hockey this season or not, going into next season it will be another year for (center) Jack Hughes. It will be another year for younger players (centers) Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, (forward) Jesper Bratt. All these guys are going to have another year of experience under their belt. That is the biggest thing that our team lacked this year, just experience. We have the youngest team in the League, or one of the youngest teams, and it showed.

"That being said, our team was 6-2-2 the last 10 games before this whole pause came. I think there was a lot of promise shown down the stretch with the coaching change. I think players showed maturity and how they responded after the coaching change; obviously our record was better. So I think there's a lot of promise for the organization and the team."

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