WILMINGTON — With his Bruins development camp teammates on the ice for about 30 minutes, Malcolm Subban was nowhere to be found. Zane Gothberg was the only goalie with Subban — the biggest name at this season’s camp — missing.
Finally, Subban appeared. The goaltender had cramps during a running test, and needed some ice, which caused both the delay and a quip by assistant general manager Don Sweeney.
“We told him to drink a little bit more water on a hot day,” Sweeney said, when asked what the team is looking for from the goalie.
Subban, the team’s 2012 first-round draft choice, will need to be a bit more prepared in the future, after spending a season in the AHL as the backup to Niklas Svedberg, who appears set as Tuukka Rask’s backup with the big club this season. Subban likely will be handed the starting job in Providence with the opportunity to prove himself worthy of his draft spot.
But it’s a bit surprising he’s spending this week at Ristuccia Arena. Subban is the only professional player at camp, something that could have been humbling.
“Somebody asked me earlier why was Malcolm, as a pro, in this camp,” Sweeney said. “He’s a young goaltender. We felt the time he would be able to spend with [goalie coach Bob Essensa] would be very, very instrumental in continuing his development.
“He had a really good first year, had some ups and downs, had to fight through some things and try and battle for the net. So I think it’s healthy for him to be around kids really his own age , even as a first-year pro. We’re happy that he’s here and going to be able to take advantage of that extra time.”
That appears to be Subban’s plan, as well. Sweeney reported that the goalie didn’t object to being at camp, calling him “very easy-going that way.”
“He really wants to be on the ice,” Sweeney said. “Felt that he would be able to take advantage of it as I described it, and was very, very receptive.”
Or, as Subban said, “It’s a fun experience here. It’s not like I hate development camp, aside from the run test.”
And he knows that, still, he has a long way to go.
After his first season in the AHL — in which he played 33 games, going 15-10-5 with a 2.31 goals against average — Subban knew he needed to get bigger and stronger, to skate better, to be more ready for training camp in September.
By saying that, Subban all but acknowledged he wasn’t quite as ready last season, noticing in the increased workload that he could have benefited from more time on the ice last summer. And that workload will only increase this year.
“We practice a lot harder here as opposed to the OHL, not that the OHL is bad, [the league] doesn’t practice hard,” Subban said. “Here, there’s a lot of time off so you have more practice and workouts. So just getting my body ready physically and getting my on-ice conditioning ready.
“In the OHL you could skate once a week in the summer and come to camp and be fine. Here I learned quickly that you can’t, so I’ve got to skate harder over the summer and skate a bit more and get ready for camp.”
Ah, training camp.
Subban had two chances to impress the Bruins in games in last season’s training camp. He was just 19, and not in the competition to back up Rask, but it was still a dispiriting performance for him. After saving all 12 shots he faced in his first game against the Canadiens, he allowed eight goals on 28 shots against the Red Wings.
“That was pretty disappointing, obviously, but just used it as motivation throughout last year,” Subban said. “I thought I handled it pretty well going into the season in the AHL, but that’s behind me now. It’s a new year and I’m just looking forward to going to camp and not repeating that.”
To that end, Subban appears to have a healthy view of where he’ll be spending the next season. He said he’s “ready to take on that role this year,” when asked about ascending to the position of starter in the AHL, adding “but there’s still a lot of work to do over the summer and I’ve got to come in in September and challenge for a spot.”
It was only after being prompted with a question about being in the NHL that he said, “Obviously that’s the goal.”
There is still much to do, much to improve, before he can consider that, including perhaps his water intake.
“I thought last year was huge for my development, just adjusting to the game and seeing where you belong and what kind of style you want to play,” Subban said. “Obviously you don’t want to change too much, but I thought I had to make a couple adjustments coming into the NHL. I thought it went really well to be honest.
“I’m looking forward to playing a lot of minutes next year. That’s what I’m working toward. You never know. You may play more, you may play less. That all depends on how you play.”
. . .
Matt Bartkowski’s salary arbitration hearing has been set for July 30, according to the NHL Players Association . . . All of the Bruins 2014 draft picks are here with the exception of fourth-round pick Danton Heinen. Players, such as Heinen (University of Denver) and Matt Grzelcyk (BU), who are enrolled full time in college are not allowed to miss classes for professional development camps. Grzelcyk will miss Thursday’s session because of classes . . . Grzelcyk skated for the first time since having shoulder surgery. He is not yet cleared for contact and wore a red jersey during the practice . . . Sweeney said first-round pick David Pastrnak didn’t bring his gear with him to Boston, taking only his skates. The team was able to rustle up some equipment for him to use.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.