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B's goalie Subban aiming to make his mark

7/11/2014

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Malcolm Subban completed his first season as a professional with the Providence Bruins of the AHL in 2013-14, but there's a reason he's among a group of amateurs at the Bruins' annual rookie development camp this week.

For example: The 20-year-old goaltending prospect was nearly 45 minutes late getting onto the ice for the first day of camp Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena. After the session, Subban explained he experienced leg cramps after the dry-land running drills and needed to ice down before he put his equipment on to join the others on the ice.

"Well, we told him to drink a little bit more water on a hot day," said Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney with a laugh.

There's still plenty Subban needs to learn about being a pro, and that's why he's here.

"As a young goaltender, we felt that the time he would be able to spend with [goalie coach] Bob [Essensa] would be very, very instrumental in continuing his development," Sweeney said. "So, he had a really good first year, had some ups and downs, had to fight through some things, and try and try and battle for the net. It's healthy for him to be around kids really his own age, to be honest with you, even as a first-year pro. So we're happy that he's here and going to be able to take advantage of that extra time."

The Bruins selected Subban in the first round (24th overall) of the 2012 NHL entry draft, and he spent the entire 2013-14 season with the P-Bruins, posting a 15-10-5 record and a 2.31 goals-against average, with one shutout in 33 games. Sharing the net (with Niklas Svedberg) was something Subban was not used to doing in his career.

"I'm used to playing a lot of games and being the go-to guy, so it was kind of tough being the secondary guy," Subban said. "I just tried to stay focused mentally, and that was the hardest thing for me mentally was to stay focused and earn my way. You don't play as much, so when you get a chance to play you got to play well, and that's what I tried to do."

Added Subban: "Last year was huge for my development I felt, adjusting to the game and seeing where you belong and what kind of style you have to play. Obviously, you don't want to change too much, but I felt I needed to make a couple of adjustments coming into the AHL. I thought it went really well, to be honest."

The Bruins recently signed Svedberg to a one-year, one-way contract worth $600,000 to serve as Tuukka Rask's backup.

If that plays out during training camp and Svedberg earns the backup role, Subban will see plenty of rubber in Providence next season. Subban said he's prepared for anything, so when the Bruins informed him that he would participate in development camp, the response was typical. He told Sweeney, "Hey, man, whatever you want," explained the assistant GM.

"He's very easygoing that way," Sweeney said. "Great nature, and really wants to be on the ice. [I] felt that he would be able to take advantage of it as I described it, and [he] was very, very receptive."

With Rask locked up through the 2020-21 season, where do Subban and Svedberg fit into the Bruins' plans, beyond having depth at the goaltending position and a healthy internal competition?

"I think the book on goaltending is that you should be patient to allow them to go through some ups and down and experiences," Sweeney said. "Tuukka is a great example of that, spending time in the American League, coming up, having an apprenticeship, so to speak, then getting the net."

Now that Rask is the true No. 1 goaltender for the Bruins, Svedberg and Subban find themselves as the so-called apprentices.

"[Svedberg] is going to try and go in and be that backstop, the complementary piece to Tuukka," Sweeney said. "The other guys are going to move along the path that they're supposed to be."

Subban doesn't lack for confidence, but he understands his role in the organization and will prepare this summer to compete for the backup role in Boston or be ready for another season in the AHL. So the fact that he's back at development camp does not bother Subban or ruffle his ego.

"It's good," Subban said. "It keeps you sharp for the rest of the summer, and it's good to get back on the ice and see the guys. It's a fun camp, besides the run test."

Subban is disappointed about one thing: He left his Xbox at home. David Pastrnak, Boston's first-round pick (No. 25 overall) in this June's draft, has an extremely outgoing personality and is already chirping that he's better than Subban at NHL14.

"I wish I brought it, but we might go get one," Subban said with a smile.

Realistically, Subban needs more time to develop at the pro level. He knows he has to be outstanding in order to earn a spot and play in the NHL for the Bruins. That progress began last summer at development camp, and it continues now.

"I'm just focused on getting better this summer and competing for a spot in September," he said, as he took a drink of water.