Malcolm Subban has an opportunity right now.
With Jonas Gustavsson showing no timeline for his return to starting right now and NHL play resuming, PK's brother and arguably Boston's hottest netminding prospect is back up with the big club.
The 22-year-old has been in strong form in Providence this season, sitting 11th among AHL goalies statistically on a Providence team that despite the scoring exploits of players like Frank Vatrano, hasn't really lit up the AHL - they're bang in the middle of the Atlantic Division, having only won just over half of their league games.
Subban has comfortably outperformed his partner in the P-Bruins net Zane McIntyre, although he has played 8 more games and has just about) cemented himself as the AHL starter. However, his one NHL game so far saw him thrown to the wolves somewhat against the St. Louis Blues. 3 goals conceded on six shots is the sum total of his NHL performance so far.
However, in the AHL Subban has shown himself to be more than up to the expectations he set to be drafted 24th overall in the 2012 NHL draft (20 places higher than his older brother PK was drafted, and higher still than his other brother Jordan). After an impressive junior career with Belleville Bulls and a starting role in the 2012 World Juniors, he ended his junior career as the No.1-ranked North American netminder.
After two seasons of seasoning in the AHL, the Bruins are close to the point where they need to give Subban the chance to truly settle himself as an NHL netminder - with respect to Jonas Gustavsson, he's nothing more than a stop-gap this season. Gustavsson has performed respectably in relief of Tuukka Rask, but Subban surely has to be the long-term option for the Bruins, right?
As previously mentioned, the Bruins have been careful with Subban, choosing to let him season in the AHL platooning first with Niklas Svedberg, then with Jeremy Smith, and this season with McIntyre. They've been careful to ease him forward into the starting role and give him more and more action.
Now, with Gustavsson's injury, there is the potential to see Subban in NHL action either in relief of Rask or spot duty over the next few weeks.
And, to be honest, it's about time. Subban's confidence is high right now in the AHL. He's playing well and has been receiving very good reviews. But with the B's insistence on platooning and developing goalies in the AHL, eventually there will only be so far the P-Bruins can take his game.
In short, Subban may well have gone as far as he can go at his current level, and may now be in danger of plateauing.
The scouts have always been incredibly impressed. NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen described him as "Carey Price - big, calm and poised." That's some comparison to make, that.
But there is no way that Subban can prove that at the AHL level.
The Bruins schedule is mixed over the next month or so - there are tricky games against the likes of the Stars, Predators and Kings but also several meetings against lower-level teams - the likes of the Sabres, Leafs, or Blue Jackets...the kind of games that would likely see whoever is the Bruins' backup given time.
Why shouldn't that backup be Subban? And why, more importantly, shouldn't he be given the extended chance to make the backup position his own while there is a vacancy?
Don't get me wrong here - I'm not arguing for Subban to be given preference for starts every night - to even consider that he should be given even platooning privileges with Tuukka Rask is....well, ludicrous. But with Gustavsson sitting around the league average and not really impressing as a solid, safe backup, there is room for maneuver.
The door, one might say, could be ajar.
Now with the necessity of allowing Gustavsson to recover, there is room for another goalie on the Bruins. There is a possibility for Subban to shoulder his way past given a strong performance or two.
Of course, there is also the potential for a story like that or Cam Ward, or Andrew Hammond, or any other number of backups who've come from nowhere to have major impact on their teams. Why can't the younger Subban have the same impact in Boston that his brother does in Montreal, given time and opportunity?
If nothing else, the Bruins management have the opportunity right now to take one of their most heralded prospects, one at a key position, and give him a chance to impress at the NHL level. One he's been working towards steadily the past few seasons.
Is it really a chance they can afford to waste?