As it turns out, Malcolm Subban was much more than an admirable fill-in between the pipes whenever he and his brothers got together for a little pick-up hockey.
In a family full of defensemen, it was Malcolm who always volunteered to play goalie. When he turned 12, the position stuck for good, despite the fact older brother P.K. and younger brother Jordan preferred the blue line.
"When you're on the ice, in the backyard or in the hallway, I always volunteered to be the goalie," Malcolm told NHL.com. "I was a defenseman until I was 12 and I always wanted to play goalie. I love both positions. I wish I could play both, but I just had a passion for goalie watching all the Don Cherry
tapes. My dad let me play when I was 12 and I've been happy ever since."
Belleville goalie Malcolm Subban is the top rated North American goalie eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft. (Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
So are NHL scouts and general managers. On Wednesday, NHL Central Scouting ranked Subban, now in his third season with the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls, as the top North American goalie eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft.
"He's got phenomenal quickness, athleticism and flexibility," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He's aggressive and consistent. He can make the big save to either hold his team in the game or to keep the lead. He's very confident and smart at reading plays developing in front of him."
Subban is in the midst of a remarkable season in Belleville. In 19 games, he is 13-6-0 and leads the league in goals-against average (1.93) and save percentage (.938). In his first week back after missing the first month of the season with an ankle injury, he earned CHL Goalie of the Week honors (Nov. 5-12) after posting two wins, a 0.49 GAA and .982 save percentage. He was rated first among OHL goalies by Central Scouting in its preliminary rankings released in November.
"He's very strong in the net, has strong leg push-offs when challenging shooters or when moving quick laterally," Jensen said. "He has very good upside and has the chance to be a quality No. 1 goalie in the NHL someday."
After playing one game in the 2009-10 season, he went 10-17-2 with a 3.16 GAA and .900 save percentage in 32 games last season.
Will Malcolm earn the distinction of being the highest-drafted Subban? Considering he was the only 2012 draft-eligible goaltender to be invited to Hockey Canada's Summer Under-20 goaltending camp, it wouldn't be too much of a shock. P.K. was selected in the second round (No. 43) by Montreal in 2007. Jordan, who is in his initial season with Belleville, isn't draft eligible until 2013.
The No. 2-rated North American goalie on Central Scouting's list is Matthew Murray of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Murray, who splits time with 2010 first-round pick Jack Campbell
, has 11 victories in 27 games, with a 3.99 GAA and .876 save percentage.
2012 NHL DRAFT
D-men dominate top 10 in midterm ranks
Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Teams needing to build their blue line in the upcoming NHL Draft will be in luck, as the midterm rankings from Central Scouting indicate plenty of the top prospects are defensemen. READ MORE ›
"He's more of a positional, blocking-style goalie and looks and plays big in the net at all times, whether in his initial stance or when he drops in the butterfly," Jensen said. "His positional play is exceptional. He doesn't leave many holes for shooters, is calm and relaxed. Technically, he's pretty sound and has good rebound control when moving laterally through the crease."
As a rookie with the Greyhounds last season, Murray won eight times in 28 games, with a 3.79 GAA and .887 save percentage.
Two goalies who starred at the 2012 World Junior Championship, Russia's Andrei Vasilevski and Andrey Makarov, earned high marks from Central Scouting.
Vasilevski is the top-ranked European goalie on Central Scouting's midterm list. He finished 4-1 with two shutouts, a 2.01 GAA and .953 save percentage in helping Russia win a silver medal. His finest outing came in a 2-1 overtime victory against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, when he stopped 38 shots.
Makarov stopped all seven shots he faced in relief of Vasilevski against Canada in a 6-5 win in the semifinals. He then shined in the 1-0 overtime loss to Sweden in the gold medal game, making 57 saves. He finished 1-1 with a 0.88 GAA and .979 save percentage in three games at the WJC.
He plays for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, where he is 18-11-0 with a 2.99 GAA and .913 save percentage in 31 games. He's ranked eighth among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting.
Did his heroic effort at the WJC help boost his rating on Central Scouting's midterm report?
"It absolutely helps that (Makarov) played well at the World Juniors," Jensen said. "It shows that he can play in big games.
"He's really improved since last year. I've been quite impressed. He's played most of his team's games and has played very well right from the beginning of the year. I like his chances of getting drafted this year."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale