Features

NHL DRAFT: Last Lines Of Defense

BlueJackets.com profiles a young American defense prospect, and this year's top-rated North American goaltender

Thursday, 06.14.2012 / 4:50 PM / Features
By Rob Mixer  - BlueJackets.com

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of four installments in a series of stories highlighting and profiling the top available prospects in this year’s NHL Draft, to be held at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22-23. BlueJackets.com will bring you insight from the club’s hockey operations staff and around the hockey world as we get set for the draft weekend.


“LAST LINES OF DEFENSE”


There’s pressure for any top prospect as the NHL Draft draws near. But for young American defenseman Jacob Trouba, you would never know based on his demeanor. The native of Auburn Hills, Mich. has a “coolness” factor to his game on the ice, and an affable personality away from the game, as well. Entering next week’s big event in Pittsburgh, Trouba, 18, is the top-ranked U.S.-born prospect in the draft and has drawn comparisons to Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He has spent most of his developmental years in the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), and most recently was a top-pairing defenseman on the Under-18 team where he was nearly a point-per-game player throughout the season. As a member of the 2011 American team at the U-18 tournament, he won a gold medal and was the go-to guy on the blue line.

Why is Trouba so highly-touted? Scouts say it’s the matureness of his game, as well as the two-way ability he’s shown with the USNTDP. He can play a physical game and defend against top players, but is also adept at transporting the puck and creating offense from the back end.

The lone goaltender in our profile series this year, Subban’s family ties to the NHL have already been well-documented. His older brother, P.K., is a standout defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens and is one of the bright, emerging starts in the game. But Malcolm is out to make a name for himself in the NHL: he was the goaltender of the family, and grew up attempting to stop P.K.’s blistering slapshot and younger brother, Jordan – and the latter was a 2011 OHL draft pick of the Belleville Bulls.

Subban earned the ranking of top-rated North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting, too. In his first full season in the OHL (2010-11), he put up decent numbers that included a 3.16 goals-against average and a save percentage of .900. The numbers could be interpreted different ways: the Bulls were not a very good team that year and struggled mightily on the defensive side of the puck. With a slightly improved team in front of him during his second OHL season, Subban took off. He finished fourth among all OHL goaltenders in goals-against (2.50 in 2011-12) and increased his save percentage to .936, while winning 25 of his 39 starts.


“THE BUZZ”

NHL Central Scouting’s Al Jensen on Malcolm Subban: “I see Malcolm as Carey Price. He's calm and poised. I find 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."

NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory on Jacob Trouba: "He has offense skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he hasn't disappointed."


ANALYSIS

Trouba is yet another shining example of the USNTDP, and another in a long line of prospects that have/will go on to have productive NHL careers. While it’s unlikely he makes the immediate jump to the NHL - like fellow American prospect Cam Fowler did in 2010 – Trouba’s play could make for a difficult decision once he arrives in an NHL training camp. His work ethic and raw skill make him an intriguing option, and it should not surprise if he is drafted higher than many have projected (middle of the first round is the general consensus).

The chatter among hockey types lately has been goaltenders. Could this be the year that goalies steal the show at the NHL Draft? With fewer and fewer available free agents and trade targets (and several teams needing goaltenders each summer), the prospect pool of netminders may very well be the talk of the town.

Subban has been projected to go anywhere between the middle of the first round to the end of the second round (depending on who you talk to) – an indication that more than a few NHL teams are looking for goaltending depth, and some could get creative to make it happen.


TALE OF THE TAPE

JACOB TROUBA | DEFENSEMAN

USNTDP (U-18)

HEIGHT: 6-foot-2

WEIGHT: 193

AGE: 18

STATS: 9-22-31 in 50 GP

2011-12 FINAL RANKING: 9


MALCOLM SUBBAN | GOALTENDER

BELLEVILLE BULLS (OHL)

HEIGHT: 6-foot-1

WEIGHT: 188

AGE: 18

STATS: 25 wins (39 GP), 2.50 GAA, .936 SV%

2011-12 FINAL RANKING: 1 (North American goalies)

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