by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
There will come a time when defenseman P.K. Subban is one of the players who leads the Montreal Canadiens.
That day is a ways off, though, so in training camp Subban was fodder for one of the oldest rookie pranks in the book. His Montreal teammates told him to go first and lead the group onto the ice for a practice in front of a packed crowd. He went out and, of course, everyone else stayed behind. It took Subban a lap around the rink to discover the ruse.
He laughed, naturally, because he appreciates good humor and what else was he going to do? But here’s the real punch line: Subban gritted his teeth, came to Hamilton and became part of the backbone of a team that began the AHL season with points in each of its first 11 games.
"I think I’ve been pretty consistent," he said. "It’s not like I’m showing up for one game and then waiting to have a good game three games later. It’s competing every night, doing your job. It’s up to you how long you want to keep your job for."
Put Subban down for a load of minutes, and not necessarily all that many more with the Bulldogs.
Blessed with one of the most appropriate abbreviations imaginable for a defenseman, Pernell Karl Subban is embracing his heavy advance billing. The second-round pick by Montreal in 2007 has transitioned into a Hamilton defensive corps that again looks like one of the AHL’s best.
Furthermore, Subban comes pre-packaged with a maturity that matches his cool. He has thoughts on almost everything, yet comes across as measured instead of pushy.
"I’m only 20 years old. That’s me. If you ask for my opinion, I’m going to give it," he said. "As a young guy, I try to be energetic, positive. I’ve always been a guy who has been loose, but very focused."
That’s an understatement. Last summer, Subban, a native of Rexdale, Ont., took a course in introductory French because he realizes the importance of that language to his new surroundings.
Video games? Yeah, he has a PlayStation 3, but it’s gathering dust. He’s more likely to kill free time by hammering it with a book, most recently one about U.S. President Barack Obama.
"Now that it (hockey) is a job, I read as much as I can. School doesn’t come along with hockey unless you want to do it," he said. "This will be the first year I won’t be involved in a course. I’ve made it one of my main hobbies to keep reading as much as I can, to keep my brain strong."
And why shouldn’t that organ match the rest of Subban’s 6-foot, 202-pound frame? He originally gravitated to the position of defense because of the way he could put a stranglehold on a game from back there, and he hasn’t loosened his grip since.
"It’s a great position for me. I like the fact you can control the play," he said. "The offense starts with you. And you are the last line of defense, also. It’s a lot of fun for me."
Subban marched into the Canadiens’ system coming off a 2008-09 season in which he went 14-62 for Belleville of the OHL. The points total tied him for second among league defensemen, and he also was runner-up for the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman award. He also won gold skating for Canada in the World Juniors, tying for the lead among all defensemen at the tournament in points with nine (3-6) and leading the tournament with a plus-12 rating. It was the second year in a row in which Subban helped push his country to the top spot in that showcase.
"I knew a lot of people were watching, but I didn’t know a lot of people who don’t play hockey were watching," Subban marveled of the event’s magnitude. "It was pretty significant."
The sustained production now has Subban wrestling with a problem, albeit one he created himself. He appreciates the praise as an offensive defenseman, but bristles at the notion that the label could obscure the rest of his game.
"That’s easy for people to put me in that category. My offensive game is something people notice," said Subban, who has five assists in his first 11 games with Hamilton. "I think what people don’t notice enough is I can make that good first pass out of my zone, and I can play defense. Sometimes I don’t think I get enough credit for the other parts of my game. Guys who are just offensive, they don’t get very far."
Subban clearly has never had use for such constraints. He’s been a player going places for several years now, and he’ll reach his final destination with a bull-rush. It will be, no doubt, the kind of brazen charge that everyone in a similar jersey will want to follow.
"How you play is going to be the result of (confidence). If you don’t, you will get eaten alive," he said. "There is never a time I feel I can’t do something on the ice. I work extremely hard to get better every day. When you do that, your confidence comes out."
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.