Subban, Svedberg: Newest Bruins Goalie Prospects Off to Promising Starts

Al DanielCorrespondent IINovember 14, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Malcolm Subban, 24th overall pick by the Boston Bruins, poses during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Malcolm Subban, the newest netminder to join the Boston Bruins prospect pool, sported an OHL crest across his chest last week as part of the Canadian major junior Subway Super Series.

Niklas Svedberg, who signed with the organization a month before Subban was drafted in the first round, stands a decent chance of similarly wearing the AHL acronym come late January.

Not a bad first impression for either party as they each delve deeper into their first hockey season with their rights owned by America’s oldest NHL franchise.

If the NHL lockout is resolved in time to salvage a 2012-13 season, and assuming the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, both stoppers are easy candidates to serve as a third-stringer/Black Ace if their current teams are no longer playing.

Barring any drastic changes in their trajectory, choosing between Subban and Svedberg in that event will require diligent dissection. At this time, there are several appreciable similarities in the logs they are penning at the major junior and minor pro levels.

Subban is a major reason why the Belleville Bulls are four games above .500 despite a deadlocked cumulative scoring differential of 46-46. Svedberg has claimed credit for each of the Providence Bruins’ first four victories and his input has likely averted a start more catastrophic than the team’s sketchy 4-6-1 record.

Subban enters Wednesday night’s action with the OHL’s third-best goals-against average and tied with Mississauga’s Spencer Martin for second on the save percentage leaderboard. Svedberg’s 1.83 GAA is good for sixth among qualified AHL leaders, while a .933 save percentage has him comfortably locked into the top 10.

In six full-length outings, Svedberg has only once allowed multiple goals in a single period. That was during the second period of his first regular-season start in North America, when he let three get by, but sandwiched that with two goose-eggs en route to a 4-3 win at Manchester.

When playing in front of Svedberg, the P-Bruins are 2-0-0 when scoring first and 2-2-0 when shedding first blood. When given a lead, or even when his skating mates make up a deficit, the Swedish import has yet to let the opposition renew the knot or regain the upper hand.

Subban’s game log is a little more substantial, which means more room for occasional flashes of human imperfection. But he has yet to nurse a winless streak lasting longer than two games.

Like Svedberg, two of Subban’s losing decisions are owed more to a lack of offensive output at the other end. On one other occasion, plans for a night off were negated when a colleague allowed four goals, after which Subban (on Oct. 24) and Svedberg (on Oct. 27) allowed two more as part of a vain firefighting endeavor.

In the coming months, both masked men could deviate their normal regimen in favor of joining an elite conglomeration of their peers.

Subban is in the running for a coveted Team Canada roster spot at the World Junior Championship, which will be held in Russia between Boxing Day and Jan. 5. Svedberg is in the company of Curtis McElhinney, Braden Holtby, Martin Jones and Robin Lehner, as early frontrunners for one of three available goaltending gigs on the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

If Svedberg wins, he will follow the 1995 act of Scott Bailey by playing before a Providence crowd at the AHL’s midseason classic.

Granted, Bailey did not amount to much at the next level, but Boston’s more recent dynamic tandem of Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas offers a more encouraging platter of parallels. Several witnesses have already likened Svedberg’s style to that of Thomas while his (so far) smooth transition from his homeland to North America can be likened to Rask circa 2007-08.

If Subban goes to the illustrious international holiday tournament, he will be filling a set of pads once occupied by the likes of Jose Theodore, Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price and Steve Mason, just to name a few.

For either goalie, falling short of those select groups would not be wholly lamentable, provided they each retain their reliability with their current employer.

The Bruins front office is rightly confident in handing the torch to Rask as the top team’s top goalie while Anton Khudobin graduates from Providence to a full-time backup role. But with that tandem not quite perfectly proven in their respective roles, Subban and Svedberg are two welcome specimens of insurance.