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Subban jumps in crowded net.

Byline: Rich Garven

WILMINGTON - Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban has a prominent ranking on New England sports fans' Most Despised List, right up there with Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James and Peyton Manning.

But Malcolm Subban said all the right things while wisely distancing himself from his flamboyant and flopping older brother yesterday as the sixth annual Bruins Development Camp got under way at Ristuccia Arena.

Subban, an 18-year-old goalie whom the Bruins selected 24th overall in the NHL draft on Friday, pointed out that, brother or no brother, he has never been a big Montreal fan anyway. And he has gotten only positive vibes from the big, bad B's boosters he has bumped into during his first trip to the area.

"With a lot of Original Six teams, the fans are passionate but it just makes it that much better," Subban diplomatically explained when asked about P.K.'s, um, special relationship with puckheads in these parts.

So Subban passed the off-ice test. Now the Bruins are hoping he grades out where it matters most - on smooth, frozen surfaces measuring 200-by-85 feet.

The Bruins had Subban ranked among their top 10 prospects entering the draft and were pleasantly surprised to see him still on the board when they stepped to the podium.

There are a couple of reasons why that occurred.

Teams are reluctant to draft goalies in the first round because they tend to take longer to develop than skaters. And if they don't pan out, there's no place to play them, unlike forwards and defensemen who can at least end up on a fourth line or third pairing.

Of the first 61 picks in this year's draft, just four were used on goalies.

The Bruins have been on a mission the last few years to bolster their depth in net, acquiring Niklas Svedberg (2009), Zane Gothberg ('10), Anton Khudobin and Lars Volden ('11), and Adam Morrison ('12) via the draft, free agency or trade. The opportunity to add a potential No. 1 goalie to the fold was too great to pass up - especially with Tim Thomas' future in doubt.

"It certainly is a need and if (Thomas) won't be playing for us and his contract expires, I mean, we're short one goalie," general manager Peter Chiarelli said on draft night. "Going into this year, though, regardless of the Tim situation, it was an area we felt we wanted to backfill a little bit."

So what did the Bruins get?

"The athleticism you can see right away, how quick he is in the net," assistant GM and development camp chief Don Sweeney said yesterday. "The next thing he'll understand is the shooters are better at the next level as well. So goalie coach Bob Essensa will go to work on things he's already seen in his game that he wants to identify and improve on.

"But he competes for every puck on every stage, even on the first day in this environment. Most goalies don't like to be scored on (and he's no different). The athleticism, the push across the net, is very impressive."

The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Subban has been a goalie for only six years and reportedly is far from a finished product technique-wise. He spent last season playing for Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League and is likely to find himself back with the Bulls for at least another winter or two.

Before that, he'll represent Canada in a four-game series against fellow junior players from Russia in August. In the meantime, Subban will spend the next four days trying to make a positive impression on the B's brass while acclimating himself to an NHL organization.

"Obviously, you're trying to get your foot in the door, get some experience, and go out and just see what it's going to be like (in the NHL)," Subban said. "This camp is a taste of what the Bruins organization is like, so it's nice to be out here."

And if things go as planned, Bruins fans will find themselves - egad! - cheering for a Subban in a few years.

Bear Facts

The Bruins will practice today beginning at 11 a.m. with a power skating session scheduled to get under way at 12:45 p.m. The public is invited, and a great deal of fans attended yesterday. ... There are 16 forwards, eight defenseman and six goalies here, although Harvard senior forward Alexander Fallstrom isn't participating on the ice due to injury. ... Fourteen of the players are Americans. They hail from 11 states, Michigan leading the way with four. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk of the U.S. National Development Team via Charlestown is the lone Massachusetts native.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 29, 2012
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