When the Bruins' turn to walk to the podium in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh finally came late Friday night, Boston fans feared the worst after murmurs of the unthinkable started to spread. Could the club really select a player with family ties to one of biggest villains in franchise history?
Turns out they only had to worry about a relative of one of the biggest pests currently annoying the Bruins with his antics.
The Bruins passed on forward Henrik Samuelsson, son of infamous cheap shot artist Ulf, leaving him for Phoenix three picks later. Instead, with the 24th overall pick they opted for goalie Malcolm Subban, brother of Montreal defenseman and chief agitator P.K.
Just when you thought there was no way to add a new wrinkle to the ancient feud between the Original Six rivals, along come the brothers Subban to spice things up to a whole new level.
"The rivalry's just about to begin," Malcolm Subban joked to reporters in Pittsburgh. "I don't know if he's going to like me too much. To be honest I never liked him too much."
The possibility of seeing the Subban siblings going head to head in a few years is a tantalizing storyline, but this selection was purely a hockey decision.
Subban was the top-ranked North American goalie available who put up some impressive numbers in his second season with the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls. Subban was 25-14-0 in 39 games, posting the fourth-best goals-against average in the OHL at 2.50 and tying for the fifth-best save percentage at .923. Not bad for a kid who followed in his older brother's skates as a defensemen until making the move to the crease when he was 12.
Despite the late start, Subban drew praise from scouts for his great reflexes, lateral movement, post-to-post coverage and athleticism. He's still a work in progress though, with issues with his rebound control and some questions about his glove hand. He's also dealt with nagging groin injuries during his junior career which could cause some concern.
But the positives far outweigh any negatives when it comes to the potential Subban possesses, which earned the praise of NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen.
"I see Malcolm as Carey Price," Jensen is quoted in Subban's profile on NHL.com. "He's calm and poised. I find [Marc-Andre] Fleury as more of an acrobatic goalie and getting out there, but Malcolm is very good with his positioning with outstanding lateral ability and quickness. He can make the big save to turn a game around, but he covers post-to-post so well with his butterfly. His leg extension is incredible and he has a very quick glove hand."
That skillset was enough to get the Bruins to buck their recent trend of avoiding netminders in the early rounds. They haven't taken a goalie in the first round since selecting Hannu Toivonen with the 29th pick in 2002. Since Peter Chiarelli took over as general manager in 2006, the Bruins had drafted just three goalies in any round, taking Michael Hutchinson in the third round in 2008, Zane Gothberg in the sixth in 2010 and Lars Volden in the sixth in 2011.
The Bruins had further augmented their organizational depth at the position by signing Adam Morrison out of the Western Hockey League in March and Niklas Svedberg out of Sweden earlier this offseason.
That didn't deter Chiarelli from grabbing Subban when he was available late in the first round. If he develops as the club hopes, it could give the team a well-rounded nucleus from their last three first-round picks. Tyler Seguin, the second pick of the 2010 draft, has already emerged as a star up front, while Dougie Hamilton, the ninth selection last year, is expected to make the leap to the NHL on Boston's blue line this coming year.
Boston has long groomed Tuukka Rask to take the reins in net and the 25-year-old Finn has a long and bright future ahead of him, but now the Bruins may just have another elite netminder in the pipeline to push Rask in a few years the way Rask's presence helped push Tim Thomas to new heights in recent years.
And if he can push the buttons of his brother along the way in the next generation of Boston-Montreal clashes, all the better.
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