Here’s a very interesting “what if” — P.K. Subban did an interview with Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski from ESPN and shared a story about how he thought for a little while that the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to draft him. Here’s P.K:
I wasn’t really thinking about going to the draft in the first place, because I didn’t even have to go to the combine. I think it was only the top hundred or 150 ranked players that went to the combine. But I did have three teams that were interested in me: I believe it was Washington, Florida and Pittsburgh.
I remember them saying that they wanted to see if I was willing to go to the draft. So we drove to Columbus from Toronto. On the first day, there was a chance I was going to go to Pittsburgh at around 20th overall if the player that they wanted wasn’t available. That player was Angelo Esposito, and they ended up selecting him. So any chance of being selected in the first round was pretty slim by then.
Subban actually had to wait until 43rd overall when the Montreal Canadiens drafted him.
That’s a pretty interesting tale, and almost every player is told “hey we’re going to draft you here if things work out” and a lot of times they don’t work out.
Subban certainly would have fit into then-general manager Ray Shero’s strategy of loading up on defenseman. Though Shero would take a forward in Esposito in 2007, the Pens usually loaded up on their high picks on defensemen. Subban would have joined Carl Sneep, Brian Strait, Simon Despres, Phillip Samuelsson, Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta to go down memory lane of Shero’s highly selected defenders, and surely the best of the bunch.
However, even if the Penguins did draft Subban in 2007, it is highly unlikely that he ever would have played for Pittsburgh. Let’s not forget the Pens’ pick that year, Esposito, was then a highly-regarded prospect and a key piece to the puzzle of the trade that sent Marian Hossa from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. Esposito, unfortunately, never got his professional career on track and didn’t play above the AHL level.
But even if the Pens did draft Subban, who went back to the OHL for 2007-08, they still would have wanted Hossa for their playoff push. The Thrashers (RIPIP) would have still wanted the Pens’ best young non-professional prospect, who would have transformed from Esposito into Subban. So Subban probably ends up getting dealt to Atlanta to play out the string on a moribound franchise that eventually relocated to cold and lonely Winnipeg.
All things considered, a bright and flashy player and personality like Subban going to Montreal in the draft probably was a lot better of a fit.
But if Esposito hadn’t have slid in the draft, the career of Subban might have played out a lot differently if the Penguins really did step up and draft him.