WILMINGTON — Malcolm Subban remembers the fraternal competition in the backyard rink. It was always a battle. Even video games, from FIFA to NBA Live, were not spared the Subban brother treatment.
“Some controllers might have gotten tossed, I’m not going to lie,” Malcolm said. “A couple guys pausing, quitting the game, turning off the PlayStation with your foot by accident.”
But Subban’s competitive streak, which helped make him the 24th overall pick in last week’s NHL draft, is no accident. Neither is his affability.
Throughout the whirlwind week, which brought him to Bruins development camp at Ristuccia Arena, Malcolm jokingly has reiterated his loathing for the Canadiens with a constant smile, much to the appreciation of the Bruins faithful.
P.K. Subban, Malcolm’s older brother and the opponent in so many backyard battles, has developed somewhat of a villainous reputation among Bruins fans, who jeer at the Montreal defenseman’s perceived diving, cheap shots, and trash talk.
“To be honest, I wasn’t that big of a Montreal fan,” Malcolm said. “I guess I have a reason to hate them now.”
The Bruins picked Malcolm, of the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls, 19 spots higher than where P.K. went in 2007. Not that it created any dinner-table strife.
“We obviously have a tight relationship, as most brothers have,” Malcolm said. “I think just the love, it’s brought down from our parents, teaching us to love each other, support each other, always be there for each other, just going through the tough times and the happy times.
“Hockey was something to bring our family together, just bring ourselves together. It’s something we could do, a great hobby, and something we grew a passion for, a love for the game.”
Although he was the top-ranked North American goalie, Subban did not always live between the pipes. He was a defenseman as a pre-teen, but watching the goalie segments in Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em Hockey tapes piqued his interest in the position.
His parents finally gave in to Malcolm’s relentless pleading. Six years later, it looks like they made the right decision.
“I think he’s a better skater as a result of having started later on, but he enjoys the position,” Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said Thursday. “His father even referenced it when we met him on draft day. He advocated for the position, which in itself shows self-confidence even at a young age.”
Subban was 25-14 in 39 games last season with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. The Rexdale, Ontario, native is a long shot to make the Bruins this season, and will likely spend more time in Belleville. Of the six goalies at development camp, Subban, at 18, is the youngest.
“It’s definitely not easy coming in as a young guy,” said Subban, whose younger brother, Jordan, a defenseman, also plays for Belleville. “A lot of pressure, but at the same time I think I handle pressure pretty well. It’s an Original Six team, when you want to get the fans really passionate, all you want to do is make them happy and play really well. I think we’re just working really hard right now, trying to make the best of the opportunity when we get the chance.”
His brother’s path followed a similar arc. After Montreal drafted P.K., he spent two more seasons with the Bulls and one with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs before reaching the Canadiens roster.
But P.K. sports one quality in spades that Malcolm shies away from.
“It’s hard for a goalie to be a trash-talker,” Malcolm said. “If a defenseman gets beat, it’s not that big of a deal, but if you get scored on, everyone sees it.”
Perhaps years from making an impact in Boston, Subban’s positive attributes, particularly his lateral quickness, already have made an impression.
“The athleticism you see right away,” Sweeney said. “The next thing he’ll understand is that the shooters are better at the next level, as well. But he competes for every puck and every save even in the first day in this environment, you know, most goalies don’t like to be scored on and he’s no different in that regard.”
Even when it comes to video games.