High expectations are nothing new for PK Subban.
But after a successful run with the Montreal Canadiens during last season's playoffs, they have reached new heights and he is well aware that all eyes will be on him when training camp begins next month.
"Well, there's always high expectations," Subban told TSN at a conditioning camp in Toronto on Wednesday. "Whether it's from the media or the organization there's always high expectations for me that I put on myself. It's nothing different - I look at this like the first time I came into training camp. It's hockey - I've been playing since I was three, four years old so nothing's really changed. I'm here to have some fun."
Subban was an instant fan favourite when he played two regular season games against the Philadelphia Flyers in February, picking up two assists. The fans at the Bell Centre chanted 'PK, PK' from the first shift he took.
After a short stint with Hamilton of the AHL, he was made a surprise call-up during the playoffs and fit in perfectly. When Andrei Markov went down with a knee injury in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was anointed Montreal's No. 1 point man on the power play and his minutes went up as the Habs went further into the postseason. He had eight points in 14 playoff games and led the entire team in plus-minus (2).
"He came in and showed that he can handle himself right away and contribute to our team," said teammate Michael Cammalleri. "We're happy with his progress for sure and we expect him to be a big part of our team. Forget the future, he's a special player now, he's a charismatic guy and he's got a lot of tools. We'll expect a lot out of him."
And this season, he is expected to be the top point man again, as Markov is not expected to be ready for the start of the season. Subban will enter camp as arguably their best puck-handler on the blueline, with a lot of speed and finesse to go with it.
"I like to keep my game simple," he said. "Usually when I have success I just give the puck to Mike and he does something good with it."
And the benefit of having successfully faced some of the games elite players - like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby - multiple times has only served to increase his confidence.
"You definitely gain some experience playing against those guys," said Subban. "If you can win those one-on-one battles, you can win battles against anyone in the game, so that definitely give you confidence - when you have success against teams like Washington and Pittsburgh. So I'm going into camp (feeling) confident, but not over-confident."
It certainly didn't take long for the affable Subban to become a fan favourite at the Bell Centre, and if he is able to pick up where he left off the chants of 'PK' will rain down regularly again. He's already a young gun to watch as a potential Calder Trophy nominee. And while playing in Montreal can bring an intense focus on and off the ice, it's one the 21-year-old is anxious to embrace.
"The fans there are really passionate (and the media), they just really care," said Subban. "It's great because you could be in a market where they don't care as much, but there's ups and downs with it. The fans in Montreal are the best fans in the game."
Writtten with files provided by TSN's Sara Orlesky.