WILMINGTON, Mass. -- With goaltender Tuukka Rask agreeing to an eight-year contract extension worth close to $56 million with the Boston Bruins, any young netminder in the organization might see that as a roadblock to being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.
Case in point: Former Bruins backup Anton Khudobin knew his chances of playing time for the Bruins dwindled by the way Rask performed during the lockout-shortened 2013 regular season. Then to witness Rask follow it up with another strong performance in the playoffs and help the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals, along with a contract extension on the horizon, Khudobin wanted out, so he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
If the natural course of progression takes shape, Providence Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg should earn the backup role in Boston. Also, Bruins goaltending prospect and former first-round pick Malcolm Subban is set to turn pro and should be playing in Providence next season.
Subban is focused on his own career path and not Rask’s long-term contract.
“No, because I’m not playing there, yet,” Subban said. “I’m not even in the AHL yet, so I still have a lot of work to do to get there before that even enters my mind. Right now it’s about getting ready to contend at that level. I feel like I have a big summer coming up ahead. Coming from the OHL to the AHL or NHL is a huge step, so that’s my focus right now.”
Subban, along with 23 other Bruins prospects, participated Wednesday in Day 1 of development camp at Ristuccia Arena. This is Subban’s second development camp since the Bruins selected him 24th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney is pleased with the goalie’s progression and mindset.
“All players and goaltenders have to understand that there are no road blocks in anybody’s way here,” Sweeney said. “You look at Tuukka, he’s been patient at times to be sort of the understudy and understand it. He’s had some ebb and flows as well as some successes and then all of a sudden some steps back. That’s all healthy in a person’s development. A lot of guys think about goaltenders hitting their strides and then they play a lot longer in their careers.
“Some goaltenders have won Stanley Cups and taken steps back because it came early for them and they had some success. I don’t think [Subban] is in a rush and nor should he be. He should embrace what’s in front of him at that moment and he does a good job of that. He’s a really competitive guy, so he’s going to want the net and you love that in a goaltender.”
Subban completed his third full season in the OHL this year and helped the Belleville Bulls reach the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously, didn’t go all the way so I’m not too satisfied,” Subban said. “We made it to the conference final and lost in Game 7 to a pretty good team. Obviously you can’t complain about that. Our team was really happy with our success throughout the year and we had a pretty good team that could have made it.”
The 19-year-old netminder finished the regular season ranked first among all OHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.14) and save percentage (.934).
“He played a lot of hockey this year,” Sweeney said. “The experience he went through, being challenged and having a little bit of disappointment, really sets him up well for that next phase of his career.
"He’s such an athletic goaltender that has so much promise,” added Sweeney. “You look at Tuukka’s path to where he is right now, and it takes time for a goaltender to be in those situations and go through them and experience them.”
Subban paid close attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs. He watched Rask perform well and finish the postseason as one of the Bruins’ most consistent players. Boston came up short of its second Cup title in a three-year span, beaten in the finals by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
“I felt bad for him,” Subban said. “He played so well and he deserved a bit more, maybe the Conn Smythe or something, a Stanley Cup ring, obviously. It’s tough because things happen like that. A couple of bad breaks and just like that it’s over. I don’t think there’s much else he could’ve done, just some bad luck if you watch the last few minutes. I thought he played really well. I thought the whole team played well.”
Since the Bruins drafted him, Subban has focused on improving his maturity, flexibility, strength and routine as a goalie.
“I felt like I was always naturally flexible, but after my groin injury and my ankle injury [two years ago], I felt as I’m getting older I’m hearing a lot of stuff about taking care of your body,” Subban said.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Malcolm said. “We’re truly blessed as a family. We couldn’t be happier right now. All three [of us] are in unbelievable organizations. Obviously, P.K. is there already and me and Jordan still have a lot of work to do and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”