TORONTO – Jordan Subban missed the boat.
During the Subbans’ summer vacation in Barbados, Jordan had a chance to go out on a sail-and-scuba cruise with the rest of the crew but sleep interfered.
“You know what?” Jordan says. “I was supposed to go out on the catamaran, and me and P.K. slept in, and our family left us. We didn’t get to go.”
So close. The Jordan Subban story.
The youngest Subban brother drafted to the NHL is now 22 and doing everything in his power to avoid playing a third straight season in AHL Utica. No more being left behind.
“My goal is going into camp and making the team. That’s my only goal now. That’s my main focus,” Subban says.
“Get my foot in the door, then knock down the door. Nothing changes. I’m in the same mindset I’ve always been in.”
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The Vancouver Canucks selected Subban 115th overall in 2013. Four years later, Jordan is the only pro-hockey-playing brother yet to make his NHL debut.
He’s been training this week at Toronto’s BioSteel Camp alongside older brother Malcolm, a goaltending prospect in the Bruins’ system, and BioSteel’s lead trainer Matt Nichol has witnessed his improvement up close.
“He’s a helluva player, and he comes from a family of great athletes,” Nichol explains. “He’s better here each year than he was the year before.”
A power-play threat with a dangerous point shot and a knack for offence, Subban has tallied an impressive 72 points from the blue line over his two AHL campaigns. Last season, he put up 16 goals.
His Comets coach, Travis Green, was promoted to the big league this summer and wasted no time challenging his prospect.
“There’s a reason guys are in the AHL, because usually they’re not ready to play in the NHL,” Green said at his introductory press conference.
In a rinkside interview with Sportsnet this week, Subban said he doesn’t expect Green’s familiarity with his game to give him any advantages when Canucks training camp opens.
Vancouver signed veteran free agents Michael Del Zotto and Patrick Wiercioch, and Subban finds himself on a claustrophobic list of the organization’s young hopefuls aspiring to take the next step. Evan McEneny, Andrey Pedan, Philip Holm, Guillaume Brisebois, and Jalen Chatfield will all be hungry for a call-up.
But 2017-18 should be a season of experimentation and let’s-see-who-we-got in Vancouver.
“Obviously there’s a rebuild going on, and I know there’s spots open. My mind’s not occupied with who they signed or who’s competing for a job. I’m here to compete for a spot,” Subban asserted.
“The only thing that’ll help me is going in and playing well at camp. It doesn’t matter who the coach is. If you play well, you’ll be there.”
Little guy still has ways to go before he catches up to his uncle
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As with most fleet-footed offensive D-men, the knock on Subban has been in his own zone. He’s a minus-17 as a professional.
But he’s proud of how his defensive game has developed under Green and assistant Nolan Baumgartner, who played parts of 10 NHL seasons as a stay-at-home guy.
“I’ve come a long way. I really feel this is the first summer where my defensive game has improved over the summer, so I’m excited to go to camp and show what I can do,” Subban said.
Subban applauds Green for his “aggressive” brand of coaching. Green knows when to push, when to teach, and when to lay off the throttle. The defenceman says all you can demand from your bench boss are two things: to mesh the players together and to make each individual player better.
“Travis did that,” Subban says. “I liked him. He was perfect for me.”
But did those two years under Green and another dedicated summer training in Toronto serve Subban well enough to ready him for the NHL?
“I don’t see why not. He looks great out here, and these are all NHL players out here,” says Nichol.
“In Vancouver, they’re looking for a spark. Why not?”
Jordan Subban missed the boat, but only literally.