Prospect Profile: #10 Jordan Subban

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There’s no question that Jordan Subban has more tangible obstacles than your typical prospect standing between himself and a future in professional hockey. Beyond just the unfair comparisons that he draws in the wake of his older superstar of a brother, there isn’t exactly ample precedence for a player of his physical stature in today’s NHL.

Listed at 5’9”, 175 lbs, he doesn’t just fall well short of the average for the types of athletes that comprised the position last season; his diminutive frame barely registers him on the relative spectrum. Out of the 303 defensemen that the NHL lists on its page, only 5 of them – Francis Bouillon, Jared Spurgeon, David Warsofsky, Torey Krug, and Mark Cundari – suited up in a game last season while being listed at 5’9” or shorter.

While that’ll surely make finishing off future alley oop passes from Henrik Sedin with any sort of authority a difficult task, it fortunately doesn’t take away from the current reality that Jordan Subban remains verifiably effective as a hockey player. 

Generally speaking, there seems to be a noteworthy correlation between the degree to which a CHL defenseman produces while he’s playing at Major Junior, and the likelihood that he’s able to stick around at the NHL level in the years to come. Intuitively, this makes sense. The talents that were able to sneak through the whittling down process and carve out professional careers of their own should’ve in theory been able to thrive when the competition was significantly softer. Otherwise they likely wouldn’t have made it to that point.

In Jordan Subban’s case, his electrifying skating and relatively polished offensive game translated to eye-popping numbers in his draft year, where he registered 15 goals and 51 points in 68 games with the Belleville Bulls. Despite the aforementioned concerns about his size, the non-zero chance that he’d be able to continue to develop and eventually translate some of that displayed skill at the next level made him a no-brainer as a 4th round pick (and one whose upside made for an unfortunately surprising rarity coming from the Ron Delorme Era of drafting). 

On the surface, it would appear that Subban took something of a lateral, if not backwards, step this past season. His output dropped from 0.75 points per game to 0.64, which is hardly what you’d like to see from a drafted player with another year of supposed growth and development under his belt.

However, context is always key. Subban’s 42 points still placed him 15th in OHL scoring for defensemen (out of the 139 registered blueliners with at least 30 GP), and 46th amongst all CHL defensemen. The fact that he still managed to remain productive amidst all of the carnage that surrounded him – on a Bulls squad that won 19 fewer games than it had the previous year, selling off all of the parts that weren’t tied down during a rebuilding season – is an encouraging one. Especially since, at least by our estimates, he was tasked with handling the tough minutes on the team.

It’s not all that difficult to see how he managed to do that, given the prolific personal highlight package he put together below:

I was fortunate enough to speak with John Matisz, who became familiar with Subban’s exploits during his time putting together his book on fellow Canucks prospect (and former Bulls teammate) Brendan Gaunce:

“First things first, Jordan is no P.K. You never want to pigeonhole a player’s potential, but it’s highly unlikely Jordan hits superstar status at the NHL level. He is three inches shorter (5-foot-9) than his older brother and doesn’t have man-strength (this could change). There are flashes of P.K. in Jordan’s game — he is a puck-moving defenceman who can make a solid first pass, work the point on the power play and is one of the best-skating blueliners in the OHL.

But, overall, Jordan is less aggressive and less effective at both ends of the ice. Jordan plays on a poor Belleville team and, as a 19-year-old fourth-year player, will eat up plenty of minutes this coming season. He’s developed at a steady rate since joining the OHL but still has a ways to go before he’s able to permanently stick on a pro hockey team’s roster.

It would be outlandish to compare Jordan to his brother beyond the blood they share and the common position that they play, but it’s worth at least mentioning that PK had a similar dip in production between his draft-year and draft+1 year (from 15 goals and 56 points in 68 games down to 8 goals and 46 points in 58 games). The following season, PK went supernova for a 1.36 points/game clip before moving on to the AHL.

In the hopes of getting a better future outlook for Subban, I spoke with Buzzing the Net’s Neate Seager about what lies in wait for both the player and his team this coming season:

“I wouldn’t call Subban’s post-draft season in Belleville a home run, nor would I say he went sideways. The game was fairly easy for him as a 17-year-old on a team that loaded up in 2012-13. He certainy seemed fine when the opportunity for him to rush the puck, initiate offence and pick his spots materialized. It’s just that the Bulls were very young and that created a lot of work that usually isn’t entrusted to an 18-year-old on the small side. The lack of power-play finishers likely also affected his point totals, as it did for Ryan Murphy when he played in Kitchener.

I do not foresee Belleville contending, even in the East Division. It’s in flux until we see whether Kingston, Oshawa and Peterborough respectively retain Sam Bennett, Michael Dal Colle and Nick Ritchie back from the NHL. Ottawa is a wild card, too, due to several factors — the coaching change, the return to their home rink, having Travis Konecny as their centrepiece. The Bulls will have some good building blocks up front with Remi Elie, Stephen Harper and David Tomasek. Subban should be sounder in his own zone; it’s a big year for his growth, obviously.

There’s certainly potential for a Subban trade. A lot will depend on what Sarnia does in the Western Conference since Lightning first-rounder Anthony DeAngelo is the league’s best 19-year-old puck-moving defenceman. if DeAngelo’s not on the market, then Subban could command a big return.”

The situation in Belleville will bear monitoring, particularly as it relates to whether or not the squad around Subban is able to at least become competent enough to avoid dragging them down with him. It’s difficult to imagine the circumstances being less desirable than they were this past season, which can only mean good things for him and the help he’ll receive from the supporting cast. 

There’s plenty of work yet to be done for Subban, and he’ll have time to do so seeing as he’ll be 19 years old up until the final month of the upcoming season. The question marks and uncertainty surrounding him are warranted, but his pure upside as a talent makes ranking him as the 3rd most highly rated defense prospect in the Canucks system a fairly easy decision for us.

OTHER PROFILES IN THIS SERIES:

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      The plan was to profile him when we do previews of the actual lineup in mid-September. He’s technically still a prospect by our guidelines, but since he’d have to pass through waivers to get sent down he’ll be up with the team to start the year and we felt that was a better way to approach it. Don’t worry, he’ll get his due.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Subban is likely to be a PP specialist who you don’t play on the top two pairings. But little guys that can play still have a place in this league. We’re hoping Brian Rafalski here. Probably not, but that’s what we’re hoping for.

    • Peachy

      I’d happily take a more exciting version of Mike Weaver. Even that’s unlikely, but worst case scenario is that he makes Utica worth watching in a couple years. That’s not so bad.

      • Peachy

        I agree, completely, I mean he is described as a great skater, with offensive skills, and is not an agressive hitter and he is short and may not be strong enough to play defense regularly. So you move him to the wing, or if he can handle faceoffs, center where he can use his speed, his deftness. Then you groom him as a power play specialist. I would say, he ends up on a third line, and then plays the point on a power play for a team. He might also be good to use as a forward in penalty killing, as he understands defensive responsibilities. If he balks at switching, you make is simple. Kid if you stay at defense you will have a great career in the AHL or on a cellar dweller (like Toronto, who really want a Subban), or you can come with us and we will groom you to be a third line left wing (I mean he would be tougher than Mason Raymond) and he will play the point on the PP.

      • Peachy

        I think the PP specialist route is more likely. Little guys who made it in the NHL were offensive powerhouses — Lalonde and especially Ronning who had like 200 points his last season in junior. It’s hard to see Subban making that kind of impact. I mean to be effective as a forward with that size he’d really have to play probably a top-9 role and I just don’t see him having that potential.

        If he added some more weight he might make that PP specialist role. Even Weber has 2 inches and 20 pounds on him. Rafalski had 25 pounds on him. But Subban is young and it’s a way better gamble to take him than most of Gillis’ picks.

        • Mantastic

          it’s super hard (not impossible) to keep a roster spot for a PP specialist D with bad 5v5 numbers unless you are running 7 D or some other extenuating circumstances. personally, I don’t think weight is an issue if you are a PP specialist. easier to have him play 4th line duties and then use him as on the PP on the point

          • Mantastic

            I completely agree which is why I find it hard to imagine that he’s got a legitimate shot at making it. Unless he was an absolute offensive force (which he’s not, though legitimately skilled) I still find it hard to imagine that this would work. The idea that he’d be a 3rd line winger (as someone else posted) is insane and the notion of using the 4th line as a holding pen for specialists I think has been shown to be a losing proposition. I’m trying to think of the last PP specialists we used as 4th liners — Weber and maybe Mathieu Schneider? I feel like we did with others too but it’s just not workable when teams like LA can roll out fourth lines that can actually play, you’re going to get steamrolled.

          • ikillchicken

            Or, you pair him with a bigger and more physical defenseman who can support Jordan?

            Since when size become the end-all be-all for decision making? I thought we grew out of that and were starting to let people’s play speak for themselves. I guess dinosaurs are not extinct after all…

  • Mantastic

    The kid is 19, you idiots act like he’s done growing. PK and Malcom are both listed at 6’1″, so he’s got a couple more inches. A couple summers on a pro workout plan and he’ll easily put on another ~15 pounds.

    “Oh noes, he’s not an Alberts type physical defenseman. He’s a bust, move him to forward…” Get out of here.

  • ikillchicken

    Ah, okay. That’s been bugging me ever since you said the thing about three D men being ahead of Tommernes. And I’ve been growing more and more perplexed with each entry. 14 spots, 3 D men, presumably 1 goalie, meant only 10 forwards (now 7). Obviously Virtanen, Horvat, Jensen, Shinkaruk, Gaunce and McCann are still coming. Thought Vey would be too which would have left out Cassels. But no, I guess Cassels is the 7th. Cool.

  • asdf

    I’d say among the prospects so far, it’s more fitting to rank them in classes. i.e.

    Class A
    Dane Fox
    Alex Grenier

    Class B
    Thatcher Demko
    Jordan Subban

    Class C
    Evan McEneny
    Joseph Labate

    Class D
    Anton Cederholm
    Mike Zalewski
    Nikita Tryamkin
    Gustav Forsling
    Henrik Tommernes

  • argoleas

    A list that doesn’t include Vey or Blomstrand!!!

    I am extremely alarmed by this predicament and not at all certain I can trust anything written on Canucks Army anymore!