When you think of the ideal top pairing defenceman, you think of a guy that you can put out in any situation – whether you need a goal or to shutdown the other team. P.K. Subban (the P.K. stands for Pernell Karl, by the way) has the offensive skills that you can’t teach. Luckily, the defensive skills that he lacks are skills that you can learn – with a little effort and good coaching.
So, despite his initials, don’t expect Subban to get much work on the PK when he graduates to the Habs. He is much better suited for the PP. Don’t rule the possibility forever, though, because Subban has great skating ability and offensive players have great anticipation which can make them good penalty killers provided they learn to rein in their eagerness to attack.
Subban is blessed with some valuable offensive skills and is most certainly an offensive minded defenceman. As fantasy GMs, these are the kinds of defencemen we want on our team. We don’t worry too much about their defensive play – as long as it’s not so bad that they won’t get regular ice time.
Subban, drafted 43rd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, was ranked by International Scouting Services as having one of the hardest shots in draft class. He was listed in a group of five players. He likes to use a one-timer which makes him valuable on the power play and loves to skate with the puck. A word of caution – this skill works better at lower levels but becomes more difficult at higher levels. Subban will be able to use this skill, but he’ll also have to learn to move the puck smartly. There are many players in the NHL who will be able to keep up with Subban in the skating department. There are none who will be able to skate as fast as he can pass the puck.
The stocky Subban (six-feet tall, 207 pounds) has good size, but can sometimes be guilty of overhandling the puck. He’s gotten better with experience and doesn’t skate into trouble and turn the puck over as much as he used to. Subban has made some improvements to his defensive game and if he continues to do that and limits the careless turnovers, I’m very optimistic he’ll have a productive NHL career. I wasn’t as confident of this a couple of years ago, but seeing his work with the national junior team has convinced me that he can raise his game to new levels.
Subban was a two-time gold medalist with Canada’s junior team. In his first tournament in 2008, he played a secondary role – compared to what he’s used to. In the 2009 tourney, however he scored three goals and six assists in six games as he got top pairing ice time.
This season Subban was among the top rookie scorers in the AHL with a standout debut. He notched 17 goals 34 assists for 51 points in 70 games as a rookie with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. He also notched a pair of assists in a two-game call-up with the Habs in February.
Subban has a great blend of skills and a zest for the creative play which makes him a good fit for Montreal. Maybe not for Jacques Martin, but the fans will give him a lot of time and be patient with him. The Montreal media will like him, too – they already do. I used to think that Subban lacked the high-end hockey sense you like to have in a No. 1 d-man, but he has skills to play a good support role to someone like Andrei Markov. He’s learned to limit his mistakes and if he plays passable defence, his offensive skills will carry him a long way. He’s shown an ability to make adjustments and a commitment to work on the weaknesses in his game.
Subban will get a chance with the Habs next year, but Montreal has no scheduled openings until after 2011. I think Subban has his work cut out for him trying to fit into Jacques Martin’s system. The arrival this year of Marc-Andre Bergeron probably delays Subban’s arrival with the Habs, but he has the skill to knock the door down. Recent rumours of trying to lock Andrei Markov into a long-term contract have me wondering if the Habs might deal Markov this summer rather than risk losing him as a UFA in the summer of 2011. It seems counterintuitive to trade a defensive of his calibre, but the longer the Habs wait to deal Markov, the less they’ll get in a trade.
Certainly, it’s in their interest to lock him up long-term, but if they can’t, they’ll fast track Subban for power-play duty.