Up next on our 2018 rankings is a familiar name to many, but one making his first appearance on this list. Jordan Subban makes his debut in the Top 20 Leafs Prospects at #18, just over a month after inking a one-year, two-way contract with the Leafs worth $650,000 at the NHL level.
Three players deep into this ranking, Subban arrives as the third consecutive defenseman at the lower end of this list; a project on the latter end of being a “prospect”, but one with remaining potential nonetheless.
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The Subban family needs no introduction – with eldest brother PK on the Predators’ blue line and middle brother Malcolm on the Vegas Golden Knights. Jordan, though, is still a bit of an unknown.
Drafted in the fourth round, 115th overall in 2013 by the Vancouver Canucks, Subban now has three seasons of professional hockey under his belt, despite having yet to make his NHL debut. Subban broke into the AHL in 2015-16 with the Utica Comets, where he enjoyed a regular role for two and a half seasons before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings on December 7, 2017 in exchange for Nick Dowd.
Following the 2017-18 season, after not being offered a contract to remain in the Kings organization, Subban became an unrestricted free agent, and ultimately inked the aforementioned 1-year deal with the Leafs organization, in hopes of getting another shot at finally making it to the big leagues.
Over his first two seasons with the Utica Comets, Subban scored at a very similar clip, notching 36 points in each campaign over 67 and 65 games, respectively. That’s good for .54 and .55 points per game.
Add to that three playoff points through 4 games in 2015-16 (a small sample size, to be fair, but impressive nonetheless), and we begin to see Subban’s potential as an offensive contributor on the back end.
Where Subban’s potential has been thrown into question is how drastically his numbers imploded last season. Subban followed up a 16-goal campaign in 2016-17 with zero goals through 16 games in Utica, and 4 through 36 games in the latter half of the season as a member of the Ontario Reign. His 4 goals and 9 assists through 52 combined games is good for just .25 points per game; less than half of his totals from the season prior.
The above chart essentially tells the story of Subban’s season as one representative of an average AHLer at best, and a replacement-level defenseman at worst. That being said, Subban’s expected goals/60 do suggest a simple lack of luck is at least partially responsible for his recent downward trend in performance.
Has his progression been as expected?
We’ve already touched on this, but the short answer here is no. That being said, all hope is not lost by any means.
Despite a disappointing season, Subban has shown his potential, and there remains reason to believe that a bounceback season could be on the horizon. Should Kyle Dubas’ bet on Subban as a reclamation project succeed, Subban’s progression as a decent mid-level prospect could be right back on track before we know it. While Subban’s progression has taken a strange turn downward, there’s nothing here to suggest this trend cannot be reversed with even a different stroke of luck.
As Seen on TV (Highlights)
(And Shea Weber, by association.)
In all seriousness though, Subban’s comparables right now are probably most mostly-career AHL defensemen capable of putting up points at a decent clip. I hate to say dime-a-dozen, but another even lukewarm season by Subban might cement him within that category.
If Subban gets his mojo back and impresses at camp, or takes a big leap forward within a strong organization this season, it’s not out of the question that Subban could find himself a little higher up on the food chain if the injury bug ever strikes a few blue-liners at once.
While it’s unlikely that Subban sees any NHL time this season, his focus should remain on getting back on track and enjoying a strong, offensive season with the Marlies.
Also in this series: