CanucksArmy Prospect Profile 2015: #13 Jordan Subban

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Banner Art by Matthew Henderson

In Mike Gillis’ greatest and final draft class, the Canucks managed to snag the best and most cerebral of the Subban brothers in young Jordan.  While his short stature makes a lot of people question his play and the probability of his finding success at the NHL-level, he easily makes up for it in his hockey IQ.

There was a couple weeks where all of Canucks Nation was concerned about whether or not the Canucks would even get Jordan Subban signed to an entry-level contract, but then the Canucks finally inked Subban and within a day the issue was forgotten.  The hold up appeared to be on negotiations in AHL salary and bonuses, while Vancouver management wanted to treat him like a standard fourth-round pick.

Let’s continue past the jump to see where Jordan Subban currently sits with the organization.

Drafted out of the Belleville Bulls organization, Subban was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft after posting an extremely high 51 points in 68 games along side fellow Canucks prospect Brendan Gaunce.  Subban followed a similar path as his brother P.K. Subban in that in his draft plus-one year he saw a large dive in production.

Where the two differ is that in their draft plus-two seasons P.K. exploded to well over a point a game while Jordan saw a much smaller improvement in his production. Combined with the fact that as a defenceman listed as 5’9″, Jordan is very small compared to his peers (he is over 2 standard deviations in height away from the mean for OHL defencemen), there is some worry about Jordan’s future.

As we dig into Subban’s performance last season, the root causes of Jordan’s struggles become clear.  The Belleville Bulls were one of the worst teams in the entire OHL.  They were nearly a bottom-5 team in every team level statistic, and when you start digging into the players on his team, it becomes rather evident that Jordan was receiving little-to-no support.

Subban led his entire team in all-strength and even-strength points/game, he led the team in goals (11 more than P.K.), he broke team records, and he was tied with the top defencemen in goals.  He was the top defencemen on his team and led in all percentage of team goals, goals-created and points.  This trend continues at the league level across all OHL defencemen.

A slight negative is that his even-strength plus/minus, his even-strength goals-for percentage and his even-strength relative goals-for percentage were all slightly negative.  This isn’t a huge concern given the fact that his team was as weak as it was, and the variance within goal-based stats in even a single year, but it’s worth pointing out.

More concerning is that we know that size does matter in projecting prospects. It sucks, but this is a big area that hurts Subban.  And along with size is always questions of “physicality” though if you look at his instagram feed you will get an idea of how much of a workout fiend he is. Even so…

subban

Because of his unique position where Jordan Subban has succeeded so strongly, and that he is so short, we cannot draw a cohort of any large size, let alone with players who have succeeded.  While his PCS% in the past season is 0% that is less of a result of his performance, but more of a reflection of how unique Subban is.

Scouts are mixed on Subban.  There’s the initial hesitancy because of his size but they praise his assets in his hockey IQ, his skill, and are easily willing to label Subban as one of the Canucks top 10 prospects though his defence remains something of a question mark.  Todd Cordell, an OHL Scout, acknowledges that Subban is undersized, but in his view the young Canucks prospect plays bigger than he is, has an excellent shot and is a good skater.  Cordell describes Subban as a “Gamer”, an excellent puck mover and considers Jordan very similar to his brother PK.

Now we come to the part where we try and predict Subban’s future, an always difficult task.  Smaller players have typically been given less opportunities in the NHL, but as we start seeing high levels of  success from smaller players the NHL is starting to give them more opportunities and I think this is what is going to happen with Subban.  Subban will be given the opportunity in Utica next season and will likely be in their top 6 with (just my guess): Biega, Fedun, Pedan, Hutton and McEneny. 

Travis Green is not often willing to give prospect prime playing time, so unless we see Subban amazes us right away he will likely be in the Comets bottom 4 for the beginning of the season.  How he performs this year at a much higher level of competition will give us a better picture on his success going forward.  Subban has the tools to become an NHL regular, and as a prospect who is fun and whom I enjoy watching, I hope to see him make the big show shortly.

Like any big brother would say, PK does consider Jordan to be the best of all the Subbans.

MORE PROSPECT PROFILES FROM CANUCKSARMY:

#20 – Evan McEneny

#19 – Nikita Tryamkin

#18 – Dmitri Zhukenov

#17 – Andrey Pedan

#16 – Guillaume Brisebois

#15 – Lukas Jasek

#14 – Ben Hutton



  • Double Dees

    Well, it’s nice to see a real highlight package for a change! Subban has great hands and speed. No look backhand passes on the tape! It’s too bad that highlight packages never include puck battles in front of the net, or in the corner, but he does seem strong on his skates. Anyway, I’m excited about Subban as a prospect, and we’ll see if he can make Utica, and keep developing.

    I also wonder if he might make the AHL/NHL playing as a winger? He certainly seems to have the skill.

    Also kudos to the CA writers for always pointing out the limits of their analytical models. Many commenters completely miss those qualifiers, but they are important.

  • Dirty30

    Sbisa has size and no brains (I’m starting to pine for the Shane O’brian days!) and Subban has brains but no size.

    So Subban may not make a great stay-ay-home Dman who can clear guys like Buffy from in front of the net with ease.

    However, as a guy who can move the puck out of his own end and maybe jump into the play or QB the PP …

    Christian Erhoff never scared anyone with big hits and yes he’s bigger than Subban, but he plays with brains over brawn quite effectively.

    • Dirty30

      Well said.

      If the Canucks can put a Kesler or Vrbata (or similar forward) in on the PP with the twins it is quite obvious that a highly skilled d man with cerebral puck movement and hockey I.Q. can more than adequately fill that role.
      I just hope I get to see the day when Jordan gets an opportunity to play with the twins and Vrbata on the PP.

  • Steampuck

    Meanwhile, every average-sized teenager in Canada is quietly cheering for this kid…

    It’s interesting to note how many players are being encouraged to take off a few pounds. Slowly, the NHL is becoming smaller and lighter. Whether that happens sufficiently for Subban to get a real shot or not is another matter.

  • Steampuck

    Watching Jordan at Shawnigan Lake there was lots to be impressed with. All the skills mentioned in the article were clearly visible. It sucks that Jordan was “short changed” on the height gene. Having said that, I thought Ben Hutton had similar skills and played a more mature game. This should be the case as Ben is older than Jordan. Because of this, I would have rated Hutton higher than Jordan.

  • Double Dees

    He has to have sufficient size to clear players from the front of the net. Perhaps playing him with Pedan could make up any deficiencies. Jordan could corner the powerplay. Utica will be fun to watch.

    • Double Dees

      His job as a defenceman won’t be to clear the front of the net, it will be to drive offensive play from the back end – something this team has sorely lacked since the departure of Ehrhoff.

      As far as size goes I already mention Ronning, who was even smaller… other guys like Martin St. Louis who’s only 5’7″ but built like a brick shythouse… and if you want to look at an exact comparable size-wise – Patrick Kane is also 5’9″ 185 lbs. Doesn’t stop him from being effective either.

      Jordan is a guy who knows he has to spend a lot of time in the gym and he does.. little guys who are built have that lower center of gravity that makes it hard for bigger guys to deal with. It’s going to be fun watching him.

      • Mantastic

        hope you know there are thousands of guys who were that size and never became anything in the NHL. you pick the biggest outliers in the sample of below average height males, in Kane (1st overall pick) and MSL (both forwards) as comparables… talk about setting up someone to fail

  • Double Dees

    I’m excited for him, but I’m worried that I’m over-hyping him because of his famous brother. Canucks already put me through that with Fedor “Biekser? I don’t even know her!” Fedorov and Steve “I bent my wookie” Kariya.

  • Double Dees

    If his size and ability to move players away from the net, then why not convert him to the wing or even better center. Smaller players can do well in particular on the wing? If he can’t cope as a dman in the AHL I hope they will try to convert him. Anybody know why this has not been an option that is being discussed?

  • Double Dees

    This kid is more offensive than most of our forwards.

    Hey Cliff Ronning was/is even smaller at 5’8″ and 170lbs, and he racked up almost 900 points in 1100 nhl games.

  • Double Dees

    Thought I would throw this into the discussion for what it`s worth. I think most of us would agree Detroit drafts very well. With their third round pick (73rd overall)they selected defenceman, Vili Saarijarvi. He is five foot nine, 163 pounds. Is Detroit thinking small, quick puck moving defenceman the way of the future?

  • andyg

    Subban’s skill set and competitive drive I think make him a better than average bet despite his size. I hope the Canucks don’t convert him to the wing although one interesting comparable for that route would be Scott Walker who we drafted as a D as far as I remember (5th) and then had many productive seasons as a winger in the NHL. I’d prefer the route of a Rafalski another small d-man with excellent mobility and passing ability. I’d think that Subban adds more toughness than a Rafalski though less skill.

    Really enjoying these last couple of write-ups, nice job.

  • allsportsfan

    For those that have never skated,let alone play hockey it is one thing to skate forwards and another to skate backwards better than you skate forwards.

    Suggesting a highly mobile player capable of being an NHL blueliner should be converted to a winger is silly. It is like asking a goalie to become an NHL winger at the age of 20.
    Just because one or two NHL calibre players accomplished this act because their NHL clubs needed a winger and they slotted them in there is a rare exception.

    I would expect Jordan to make the AHL and succeed at it as he has every other level of hockey. Then he has a chance to play at the NHL level at his position.

    The team can slot him in alongside a larger d man. It is not like Lumme or Reinhart were out there bruising players. They excelled at offensive hockey and could position themselves properly so they were not defensive liabilities ,but rather exceptional players in their own right.

    • Double Dees

      I can name one past Canuck forward who could skate equally well backward as he could forward:

      Russ Courtnall.

      And he could flat out FLY in both directions.

      I agree that “converting” a player of this age is really not something one should try and do. They play their position for a reason. It’s what they do best.
      Yes some players have switched once turning pro, but I can’t think of one that hadn’t already had quite a bit of experience playing the position they switched to, in the past.

      AFAIK, Subban has always played defence.

  • Double Dees

    Suban looks great, skating, speed, IQ and good shooting ability in this video clip. However, I can’t help but to think of Jordan Schroeder and how his lack of size prevented him from being NHL. But one of you guys mentioned he’s muscular physique makes it challenging for taller guys to knock them off the puck due to lowers centre of gravity and I must say he does look very strong on his skates. I’m hoping all the best for this Suban to grow like PK in more ways than height

    • Double Dees

      If Schroeder could score goals on a consistent basis he would have a regular spot on his beloved Minnesota Wild.

      5 foot 9 Schroeder scored three goals in 25 games for the Wild while 5 foot 11 Parise scored 33.

      If Schroeder was capable of scoring 33 goals nobody would ever mention his height.

  • Double Dees

    One last thing from me. Jordan will face a number of challenges as a young pro that have been discussed above. He is also a driven, determined young man. I would’nt want to bet against him making the NHL.

  • andyg

    This is a kid that I have high hopes for. His skills and mobility are high end. Some people just don’t let their weaknesses slow them down. They just find a way around it.

    It looks like he plays with a long stick. You don’t need to be fysicle if you can retrieve and control the puck.

  • allsportsfan

    One current comparable NHL player in size, Sami Vatanen, 5’10, 180 lbs, Anaheim Ducks, 37 points, a total offensive threat. Took him 3-4 years to get to the NHL but he’s a fantastic young d-man who the Canucks were rumoured to have wanted instead of Sbisa in the Kesler trade.

    If Subban can play like Vatanen we have a potential replacement for Erhoff.

    Love the kid’s feistiness and his brush attitude like PK….the nucks need more players like that.