The shadow of his older brother, the larger-than-life P.K. Subban, is never far from Malcolm Subban these days. Here is P.K., doing television commercials for Nike and public-service announcements for Hyundai Hockey Helpers. There is P.K., doing promos for TSN and posting a humorous video job résumé on the CBC, seeking employment to alleviate his boredom during the NHL lockout.
Ask P.K. Subban a question about his life and times and generally you get a manifesto for an answer. This is a good thing, by the way. He’s a charmer, enthusiastic, boisterous and by trade a defenceman, which is the other thing that sets him apart from his younger brother.
Malcolm plays goal and has since switching to the position as a 12-year-old. As recently as 2009, he went in the 11th round, 218th overall, to the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League’s bantam draft. But three years later, the Boston Bruins made him a first-round NHL draft choice and this week, he is one of four goalies trying out for Canada’s world junior hockey team and the favourite to become the starter.
There is a confidence in Malcolm Subban, but it doesn’t ooze out the way it does with his brother. Both seem to have fun on the ice, and in that way, he and P.K. are a lot alike.
Subban, Jake Paterson (Saginaw), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound) and Laurent Broissoit (Edmonton) are all in the running for three places on the 23-man roster. Two will play in the tournament, which starts Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia, and the third will be the designated alternate, able to play only if one of the others is injured.
Pressure is something goaltenders deal with at every level, but it may be greater at the world junior championship than anywhere else because of their relative inexperience. According to goalie coach Ron Tugnutt, it is harder still for Canadian junior goalies because of the greater expectations here.
“We play against a European team that wins a semi-final game and they’re excited because they’re getting at least a silver medal,” Tugnutt said. “We win that game and we’re thinking one thing, ‘we’re only here for gold.’ So there’s a lot more pressure on our goalie than on the other teams.
“The good thing is, I feel comfortable with all four of these guys and very comfortable with their abilities. They all believe they should be the starter. I think we’re pretty lucky to have these four guys here.”
Subban says channelling pressure is something that comes naturally to him, and “it helps everyone just to know you can be laidback and not put too much pressure on yourself. I like to have fun. It’s not good to put too much pressure on yourself. It depends on how you are. Some guys are good like that. I’m not. I like to just be relaxed and have fun on the ice.”
If anything, Subban’s biggest challenge is “staying focused, staying within the game,” Tugnutt said. “At times, he might kind of stray away and get a little too flamboyant, but you constantly bring him in. He’s an elite guy.”
Paterson, of Mississauga, was also chosen in the 2012 NHL entry draft, in the third round by the Detroit Red Wings. He may not be as well known as the others in camp, but according to Tugnutt, he has been “a proven winner his whole life. He took over the job in Saginaw last year and led them to a playoff spot and then upset a heavily favoured Sarnia team. He is extremely competitive. His compete level is off the charts.”
As is Paterson’s ability to handle pressure.
Asked if pressure was something he handled naturally, or a talent he developed along the way, Paterson answered: “It’s a bit of both. Being a goaltender, it’s a pressure kind of position. Going through the different age groups and into the OHL, there’s a lot of pressure on goaltenders every night and there’s obviously a higher level of pressure here, coming into camp. But I think I’m used to it.”
Canada’s goaltending has come under scrutiny since it last won a gold medal, in 2009, but Tugnutt believes that is about to change – and predicts that the pipeline is full of high-end prospects.
“Our [born in] 1994 group is good and our ‘95 group is off the charts,” Tugnutt said. “I just believe we went through a little bit of a phase there. We weren’t getting what people would say is the goaltending that we needed or got on most occasions in this tournament.
“But I look back and say, ‘it’s funny you’re saying that, but it seems like the other team is pulling their goalies too. The U.S., in the final game [of 2010], pulled their guy. The Russians pulled their guy [in 2012], and we’re doing the same thing.’ “So don’t tell me that everybody else is better than ours. That’s not the case.”