Entering this week's selection camp at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, there were several players considered to be virtual locks as starters for the Canadian National Junior Team at the 2013 World Junior Championship later this month.
Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League -- one of four goalies invited to the camp -- was among the "locks." Fact is, however, Subban's lackluster performance through the first two exhibition games was rather un-Subban-like.
During the four-game series in the Canada-Russia Challenge in August, Subban was superb, allowing four goals for a 1.97 goals-against average in two victories. In five appearances for Canada's Under-18 National Team, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound goalie sported an impressive 2.98 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Perhaps that's why coaches and fans were willing to give Subban the benefit of a doubt through the first two days of selection camp. But there's no question Subban realizes he must play better. After all, the 2013 WJC will be the biggest event of his hockey career.
Subban allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced in an eventual 4-1 loss to the University of Alberta on Wednesday, but did settle down to turn away the next eight he faced. The performance, however, did raise a few caution flags.
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"I felt I was sleeping a bit in the first [period]," Subban told the media afterward. "I didn't know what to expect and they came out pretty hard. I thought I bounced back pretty well after that. I've had my ups and downs in camp and have to be more consistent."
Subban, who was selected No. 24 by the Boston Bruins at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh in June, entered camp on a hot streak, having won six of his prior eight starts for the Bulls. He's an impressive 15-7-3 with a 2.17 GAA and .932 save percentage in the OHL this season.
However, he was last among the four goalies at Canada's camp, statistically speaking. After stopping all nine shots he faced Thursday, Subban's .884 save percentage (38 saves on 43 shots) still paled in comparison to Jordan Binnington (31 saves, 34 shots, .912 save percentage) of the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, Laurent Brossoit (48 shots, 50 shots, .960 save percentage) of the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings, and Jake Paterson (33 shots, 33 saves, 1.000 save percentage) of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit.
Canada coach Steve Spott and his managerial team included Subban on the final roster, which was revealed following the exhibition match Thursday against University of Calgary at WinSport, won by Canada 2-0.
The final 23-player roster includes three of the four goalies invited to camp (Subban, Binnington and Paterson), including one emergency backup.
The chances Subban wouldn't be part of Canada's National Team were slim to none, considering his credentials in international competition. But, based on his performance so far this week, perhaps Canada's staff will think twice about having him penciled in as the starter.
However, Subban plays half his games on the only rink in the OHL with international size ice -- something Canada will be up against in Ufa, Russia, when the 2013 WJC commences Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.
"Making this team would mean the world to me especially after last year ,when I didn't get invited," Subban said.
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