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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…
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.