Goaltender Malcolm Subban, promising Boston Bruins prospect and brother of P.K., will start his first NHL game Wednesday, according to speculation from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Boston travels to Edmonton, and scuttlebutt suggests Subban, 21, will be showcased to an Oilers organization intent on acquiring him. Tuukka Rask has a day between games after playing Monday night, and backup Niklas Svedberg is perfectly healthy, so Subban’s call-up is interestingly timed. As of Tuesday afternoon he hadn’t been confirmed as the starter for the Edmonton game, however.
“If we’re bringing him back, which is what we had talked about at some point, it’s probably to give him an opportunity here along the way,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe this week.
Subban’s debut has been highly anticipated. He went 24th overall in the 2012 draft, he represented Canada at the 2013 world juniors, and he’s running out of things to prove with AHL providence, posting a .920 save percentage two straight seasons.
What other drafted prospects can we not wait to see in the NHL? Here are five debuts we await with bated breath.
5. Kasperi Kapanen
The exciting Finn has wheels to match his father, Sami, and Kasperi is three years deep playing against men in the Finnish League with KalPa. Any time a prospect of his ilk debuts in Pittsburgh, it’s worth watching. Could Kapanen end up on Evgeni Malkin’s wing someday? Or Sidney Crosby’s? Kapanen came so close to making the Pens this season that we have to expect he’ll crack the roster next year.
4. Sam Bennett
Chin-up bar be damned, scouts loved Bennett leading up to the 2014 draft, often comparing him to the man running Bennett’s Kingston Frontenacs: Doug Gilmour. Bennett finished first in the THN draft rankings. A serious shoulder injury has wiped out his entire season – until now. He’s healed and skating with the Calgary Flames. They can activate him and play him up to nine games before deciding whether to return him to junior or keep him and burn a year of his entry-level deal. He’s a feisty, competitive, do-it-all forward who could replicate many of Sean Monahan’s efforts.
3. William Nylander
The slick stickhandling Swede has plenty to learn before he’s NHL-ready. He holds onto the puck too much, and he has to fill out. But he’s a special offensive talent who produced elite numbers against men in the Swedish League before the Leafs brought him to North America and installed him on the Marlies last month. The more Toronto’s front office tears down the NHL roster, the more AHLers they’ll have to call up, and the closer Nylander comes to tasting the NHL. The stakes will be low enough with the Leafs out of the race, too. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Nylander suit up for a few games late in the season.
2. Max Domi
Few drafted prospects have elevated their stock like Domi has this season. Viewed as a project with some maturing to do when the Arizona Coyotes drafted him 12th overall in 2013, Domi was Canada’s best forward at the 2015 WJC. His combination of grit, hands and all-around creativity with the puck have his future NHL teammates singing his praises. The Desert Dogs will take it slow with their rebuild, but Domi should start 2014-15 in the NHL, not the AHL.
1. Nikolaj Ehlers
The Winnipeg Jets have already given us plenty to get excited about of late. Scary, then, that we still haven’t seen their best prospect as a North American pro yet. Ehlers has absolutely owned major junior, scoring two points a game for the Halifax Mooesheads, and he looked like the fastest player on any team at the world juniors when he represented Denmark. You never know how his slight build will translate against full-grown men at the NHL level, but Ehlers’ skill set absolutely tantalizes. We can’t wait to see what he can do.
Honorable mentions: Robby Fabbri, Anthony Mantha, Nikita Scherbak
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin