Thu Oct 11 02:45pm EDT
It is easy to get swept away when Jordan Subban looks like a conscious emulation of his older brother, NHL free-agent defenceman P.K. Subban.
The younger Subban did so on Wednesday when he was a game-saver for the Belleville Bulls, making a game-saving saucer pass that set up tying goal with 1:18 left against the tight-as-a-drum-defensively Brampton Battalion, before following brother Malcolm Subban's advice to roof the shootout winner. It was a show of exceptional skill that was right in keeping with his early-season spurt that has seen him post a team-high seven points in seven games from the back end. (For what it is worth, which is probably very little, P.K. Subban had 10 points through seven games in his draft season in 2006-07, although that was in a year where the OHL had a disproportionate number of power plays.)
He looked like he could dance on air. As a defenceman who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds, though, Subban has to walk on water. That's just the way it is; pointing that out isn't meant to dump on any player's prospects at the next level.
The sub 6-footers who have managed to be selected high have been truly exceptional. Think Kitchener Rangers captain Ryan Murphy, who went No. 12 overall to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011. Or former Windsor Spitfires star Ryan Ellis, who went No. 11 in 2009 to the Nashville Predators. Current Prince Albert Raiders standout Josh Morrissey, listed at 6-foot, might also fit in that genre of player.
More often than not, though, it's a tough road to the next level for a smaller defenceman who doesn't get the growth spurt. Subban was a top-10 choice out of minor hockey. So was the Niagara IceDogs' Jesse Graham (5-11, 175), whom the New York Islanders took No. 122 overall in June. Having the wheels, puck-moving skills and smarts to overcome the size disparity at the junior level is one thing, but projecting to overcome it in the NHL is another. Sometimes that player can be the next Ian White, but you never know.
One NHL scout BTN chatted with suggested Subban, whom Central Scouting Service rated as a C Skater, could be a third-round pick if a team is swayed by the Subban pedigree. Otherwise he could be drafted later. The point of saying this is to keep expectations for him realistic and not let them run amok thanks to the nameplate.
As far as the Bulls go, they got good value for their No. 4 overall in the 2011 priority selection draft. The success of the pick isn't predicated by NHL upside. Junior hockey does have a symbiosis with the NHL, but teams draft someone primarily because of what he can do for them, not because of what he might do in the big league. For instance, in 2007 the Niagara IceDogs used their first two selections on undersized forwards Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen; those were great picks since both played five seasons for the franchise. They were outstanding OHLers, which Jordan Subban has become perhaps ahead of schedule. Enjoy that for the moment.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.