MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens fans got their wish—dynamic defence prospect P.K. Subban has been recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.
The 20-year-old, who electrifies crowds with his fast-paced, attacking style of play, had an assist for Montreal in his NHL playoff debut Monday night in Game 6 of the NHL Eastern Conference playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
The win forced a Game 7 Wednesday in Washington.
Fans have been clamouring for Subban to be called up to the NHL club for weeks. The move finally came a day after Subban helped the Bulldogs close out a six-game win over the Manitoba Moose in the AHL playoffs.
”They won their series, so I think it was easier then for him to be available for us,” said Martin.
The six-foot 202-pound Subban set Bulldogs records for a defenceman with 18 goals, 11 power-play goals and 53 points this season, when he was named to the AHL first all-star team and the all-rookie team. He had three goals and six assists in six playoff games.
He was called up for two games against the Philadelphia Flyers—both losses—ahead of the Olympic break in February. He averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game, picked up two assists and was plus-1.
Defenceman Josh Gorges liked what he saw.
”I thought he stepped in right away and was great for us,” said Gorges. ”He moved the puck well. He wasn’t nervous. He was calm, poised.
”His big asset is his skating ability. He can make plays and take chances because his ability to get back and recover is above average. You really saw that in the two games.”
Gorges added that Subban is no stranger to big games. He helped Canada to gold medals at the 2008 and 2009 world junior championships.
In his second world juniors, he was named to the all-star team after collecting nine points and going a tournament-best plus-12 in six games. He probably had the edge over the other dominant defenceman in that tournament, Erik Karlsson, who had a strong rookie season with the Ottawa Senators while Subban spent nearly the entire campaign in the AHL.
In Hamilton, coach Guy Boucher spoke of trying to get Subban to control his energy and pick the right times to rush the puck. It seemed to work, as he ended the season tied for the league lead at plus-46.
After his short stint in Montreal, he was watching a Canadiens game on television when the camera turned to two fans dressed in blackface with Afro wigs wearing Habs jerseys with Subbanator written on the backs. The gesture was widely panned as racist, but Subban, who is black, called it ”hilarious,” didn’t think there was any harm intended and said he appreciated the fans’ support.
Subban’s father Karl moved from Jamaica to Sudbury, Ont., in the 1970s, where he lived in a French-Canadian neighbourhood and took up cheering for the Canadiens. He later became a school teacher in Toronto. His mother Maria is from Montserrat.
The defenceman, whose full name is Pernell Karl Subban, starred for the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey league before signing a three-year entry-level deal with Montreal after the 2008-09 season.
He was drafted 43rd overall by the Canadiens in 2007.