WILMINGTON (CBS) — As far as a first act as a veteran leader at Bruins development camp, goaltender Malcolm Subban could’ve done a little better than having to miss the first 20 minutes or so of the first on-ice session because of cramps from the running test Wednesday.
Subban finally took the ice with his camp mates and struggled a little bit to get into the groove in the crease.
However, as this annual camp unfolds over the next several days until its conclusion on Sunday, Subban should get plenty of opportunity to redeem himself. Subban is one of just two goaltenders in camp, and he’s the only player with professional experience after he spent all of last season with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.
That makes the 20-year-old an elder statesman of sorts in his third development camp since he was drafted 24th overall in 2012.
“Guys have been asking me a lot of questions about the AHL and how it was. So yeah, definitely I want to mentor the younger guys here,” Subban said after the first day of camp concluded. “I definitely feel like I have to take on that role here, for sure.”
The Bruins would like Subban to set an example. They also want him to take the next steps in his evolution as a goaltender. That’s why they decided to make him the only pro invitee. He can get a few days of intimate tutelage from Boston goaltending coach Bob Essensa and take a ton of shots in front of the entire organization’s brass.
This could be a crucial season for Subban in terms of proving to the Bruins he’s on the right track and as far as the Bruins’ decision-making about their organizational depth at goaltender.
Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask is obviously at the top of Boston’s chart. Then it looks like Niklas Svedberg, who recently signed a one-year, one-way deal and in 2014-15 will follow in the footsteps of Anton Khudobin and Chad Johnson as Rask’s backup. If Svedberg also duplicates Khudobin and Johnson’s performances in a limited role, he could wind up cashing in on his next contract with Boston or elsewhere.
Should the Bruins decide Subban is no more than a year away from climbing up the depth chart, he could make their decision-making easier. The Bruins would be spared overpaying for Svedberg or someone from outside the organization. If the Bruins think that Subban is peaking and not getting much better after his first pro season (.920 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average in 33 AHL games), they might have to decide to trade him before he loses value. As a first-round pick with solid junior numbers and some impressive moments as a first-year pro, Subban should be coveted by other organizations. With Svedberg moving up, Subban will be given every opportunity to be the No. 1 in Providence. His impression on the team’s brass, however, starts with development camp.
North Dakota goaltender Zane Gothberg, Boston’s sixth-round pick in 2010, is the other goaltender in camp. He’ll turn 22 in August and is coming off an impressive season (.926 save percentage, 1.99 GAA) with UND. If Gothberg’s development accelerates, he could help squeeze Subban out.
Subban says he’s still adjusting to life as a pro and the speed of the game. His athleticism continues to be his foundation, but his structure is coming around. That he agreed to attend development camp despite his experience of last season in the pros shows he has his mind in the right place and is agreeable to letting the organization call the shots.
He’s also proving that like Rask, he doesn’t want to be one of those outcast goaltenders that doesn’t partake in the camaraderie of the rest of the team.
“Well, you know it’s good. It keeps you sharp for the rest of the summer and it’s good to get back on the ice and see the guys,” Subban said. ‘You know it’s a fun camp aside from the run test. It’s a fun camp to see the guys here. I wish I brought by Xbox. Some guys were chirping. I know [David] Pastrnak’s chirping over there about NHL. I wish I brought it. We might go get one. We’ll see.”
When it comes to goalies, the Bruins know what they’re doing. They developed Rask and then signed and developed Svedberg. If there are no major slipups after his cramp-up, he could fulfill his potential and make the Bruins’ circle of goaltenders continue to roll forward.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
MORE BRUINS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON