WILMINGTON – Malcolm Subban admitted it was a little inconvenient when he couldn’t speak for a couple of weeks following his fractured larynx injury last winter, and that making notes on his phone to communicate with hospital staff made him appreciate the whole spoken word thing.
But the Bruins goalie prospect said it’s in the rear view after a summer of rest and recuperation as he readies to be a fully healthy participant gunning for an NHL job at this fall’s training camp. Subban wasn’t on ice for Tuesday’s opening session with the Bruins prospects, but did work with Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa alongside Zane McIntyre prior to the double practice sessions.
“It was pretty crazy. I was pretty drugged up at the hospital so I don’t remember much of it,” said Subban, who suffered the injury during pregame warm-ups prior to a P-Bruins/Portland Pirates game in Maine back in early February. “It’s been a pretty long road back with plenty of off-ice work before I got on the ice. I feel pretty good right now. Obviously it’s the summer and I’m tryout out new gear and stuff. I’m just working on getting ready for training camp.
“It’s probably the one part of my body that impacts my play the least. I’m just trying to get back into game shape, and I obviously won’t be doing that until I get back to playing. When stuff like that happens I tend to stay pretty calm. I pretty much couldn’t breathe, but I was saying ‘it’s okay, I’m fine.’ Then my body started shutting down, and I’m saying ‘it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with it.’ I couldn’t really talk, so I was just trying to [mouth] it out [to the staff on the bench].
“I honestly thought that it just got it and was a little swollen, and I was going to have to come back and be the backup on the bench…and be all freezing cold. That’s what I thought happened. I didn’t think anything serious had happened. Then they said they were putting me to sleep, I woke up the next morning and the rest is history.”
More than five months removed from the injury now, the 22-year-old Subban said he “feels like a tank” after now adding a neck guard to his retinue of goaltending equipment at the urging of friends, family and the Bruins organization as well.
The chore of cracking the B’s lineup out of camp has been made more difficult by the signing of backup netminder Anton Khudobin to a two-year contract, and by virtue of Subban’s progression getting impeded by the serious neck injury.
But Subban will simply look at all as healthy competition, and motivation to reach his longstanding goal of eventually becoming a starting goalie in the NHL.
“I’ve been hit in the neck before. I have all the gear on now, the protection and stuff. I’ve gotten used to it. Honestly I feel like a tank. I’m not even worried at all about getting hit again,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.44 goals against average while playing some of the best hockey of his pro career just prior to the larynx injury wiping out last season. “[My approach] is the same as it’s been since I was drafted. I just focus on myself and my game, and that’s all I can really control. My goal is to make the team the same as it is every year, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I just have to play well and give my chance a team to win every night.”
Clearly it’s going to be an uphill battle for Subban in the Bruins organization competing for an NHL gig to start next season with Tuukka Rask and Khudobin already in camp. But if the former first round pick can flash in training camp and show no ill effects for a fairly traumatic injury to a goaltender, it won’t be long before Subban is holding down an NHL job between the pipes, whether it’s in Boston or some other NHL destination that’s looking for a few good, young goalies.
Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs