P.K. Subban is without a doubt one of the most well-known Habs prospects since Carey Price. While Subban has shown that he can be a dominant player, like Price, we have yet to really see what he can do in the NHL.
Like many highly touted prospects, there are a lot of questions about Subban's future. How will he do in the NHL? What skills does he bring to the table? Why all the hype and how good can this kid be? When will the Habs bring him up?
To determine where Subban is going we must first examine where he has been.
Drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in the 2007 NHL draft, defenseman P.K. Subban was an immediate hit in Montreal. Known as much for his charismatic personality as his offensive abilities, Subban was the media darling of the 2007 draft.
During draft day interviews, Subban's charming, charismatic personality was on display, as his gift of the gab was as evident as his ear-to-ear grin.
Subban had the media smiling and laughing as he told them that the P.K. stands for Penalty Killing. He had them eating out of his hand as he yelled to Nick Kypreos "Hey, you were at my summer hockey camp!"
To which Kypreos replied, "No, you were at MY summer hockey camp!"
The hits just kept on coming as he explained to the gathered mass of microphones that his best asset was his confidence. Yes, Subban was and is a media darling and had everyone saying "I like that P.K. kid."
While personality, likability, and charm are great complimentary traits for any professional hockey player, it's your on-ice skills that gets you to the NHL. Fortunately for P.K., he is as skilled on the ice as he is off it.
Known as an offensive defenseman, Pernell Karl, aka P.K., was billed as a "project." A player who's overall game was very raw. While he was solid on the offensive side of the puck he would often pinch to join the rush at questionable times, creating a defensive liability for his team.
Subban's skating was said to be smooth and his first pass good, but he was still seen as a bit of a wild stallion. A player who needed to get better on the defensive side of the puck but who, ultimately, had a lot of upside.
Subban's rookie season in the OHL with his Junior team, the Belleville Bulls, was relatively uneventful as he finished the year with just 12 points. The following season (2006-2007), however would see Subban explode for 15 goals and 41 assists in 68 games.
Subban followed up his exemplary performance, in 2007-2008, by posting 46 points (8G, 38A) in 58 regular season games and 23 points (8G, 15A) and a +7 rating in 21 playoff games. His strong play earned him a spot on Team Canada during the 2007 World Junior tournament, where he was the seventh defenseman and was held pointless in seven games.
The following season, 2008-2009, would prove very different as Subban again made the Canadian World Junior team, but this time as part of the core. While P.K.'s defensive game was clearly improving, his offensive prowess was the talk of the tournament. Finishing the tournament with nine points (3G, 6A) in six games, Subban was a runner-up for the tournament MVP award, as a key contributor in Canada's gold medal win.
Subban's end-to-end, Bobby Orr-esque rushes are some of the best highlights of the tournament.
When the 2009-2010 Habs training camp rolled around, there were high hopes for Subban. But, like many players before him, Subban quickly realized that there is a big difference between Junior hockey and the NHL. During training camp, Subban looked nervous, intimidated, and even a little lost out there, resulting in his demotion to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs.
Demotion is likely the wrong word, since there was very little chance P.K. would make the Habs lineup out of camp. What did happen, however, is that Subban got his first taste of what life in the NHL is like by experiencing a pro training camp.
This year, in Hamilton, Subban has done nothing less than put on a clinic. Playing under Hamilton's Guy Boucher—a coach known to be great at working with young players—Subban has made an immediate splash. With 39 points (11G, 28A) and an outstanding +29 rating in 52 games, Subban is third in scoring for the Bulldogs. His 39 points also put him in third overall in the AHL for points by a defenseman, one behind Maxim Noreau and two behind Danny Groulx.
With outstanding offensive numbers and an even better +29 rating, it would seem that Subban has rounded nicely into form and is poised to break into the league. So why then was Yannick Weber recalled instead of Subban when the Habs ran into injury difficulties this year?
In my opinion, it is because the Habs' brain-trust are doing the right thing.
Subban is showing every sign that he should become a star in the NHL and as such, there is no need to rush him. I mean, it's not like the Habs are an elite team on the cusp of winning the cup. Far from it actually.
Despite sitting in sixth place in the East—when this article was written—the Habs have shown that their strongest suit this season is, sadly, inconsistency. The Habs are essentially a bubble team who will likely either just make or just miss the playoffs. So why would the Canadiens want to expose a potential star player to an inconsistent team who may very well miss the playoffs?
The answer is simple: they wouldn't.
Of all of the good and bad moves the Gainey has made in his role as GM, I think that keeping Subban away from the 2010 edition of the Montreal Canadiens is one of the best. P.K. is doing great in Hamilton, so let him continue to gain experience and excel. Let him play a full season in the AHL and be part of the playoff drive and hopefully a good run at the Calder Cup.
Next season, Subban will be one year wiser and will have had the benefit of a full AHL campaign. This added experience will make Subban all but a lock to make the Canadiens out of camp next year.
The Hockey's Future website lists Subban as the Habs second best prospect behind Ben Maxwell, with a 7.0B rating. This rating, according to the site, means the following:
"7 - Second line forward / No. 3-4 defenseman / journeyman No. 1 goaltender -- players not quite good enough to play on the top line or pairing on a regular basis, but still possessing enough talent to contribute offensively, defend with some authority, or competently play the goaltender's position for long stretches. Think Andrew Cassels, Jason Arnott, Darryl Sydor, Keith Carney, Dwayne Roloson, Jeff Hackett."
The reality is that ratings are just numbers and it is up to people to determine their own future. Subban, to his credit, has made a career out of excelling at each level he's played at. As such, I think he'll make that jump to the NHL next season and it should be interesting to watch his progression.
Whether he ultimately becomes Darryl Sydor or Bobby Orr remains to be seen.
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