AHL Film Room: Sam Malinski Trusting His Instincts With Eagles
Just two days after signing an entry level contract with the Colorado Avalanche, Sam Malinski made his debut in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles.
And what a debut it was.
Just a period and a half into his first professional hockey game, Malinski scored a beautiful goal for the Eagles to tie the game up. The next night, he picked up a secondary assist on the powerplay. Of the three games he played, his game on Wednesday night against the Condors might have been his weakest, but even then, he tied for the team lead in shots on net with four.
My initial impression of him is that he’s a good (not great) skater with skill offensively. Defensively, Greg Cronin will have to work with him on some things, but he already displayed some good stick-work, which you’ll see below. For being thrown into professional hockey without any real practice time with the team, he played really well. You can tell he trusted his instincts, especially offensively, and knows what type of player he is. To the Eagles credit, they didn’t hold him back either. He played a fair amount of minutes immediately, and was put in a position to succeed with powerplay time.
It’s just a start, but it’s a very encouraging one. His entry level deal doesn’t kick in until next season, but he looks like he can play at the AHL level right now. You can already see why the Avalanche were interested in getting him into the system.
Below are some clips from his first three games in the Avalanche system. Take a look for yourselves.
Second Professional Shift
This is just a short clip of the start of his second professional shift. It’s encouraging because, despite being in a new situation, he still trusted his instincts offensively to jump into the play and create offense. And there was no hesitation on his part. A great sign of things to come.
Just a quick little breakout play, where he uses his body to shield the puck from the defenseman, then skates away for separation before hitting Meyers on the breakout. It leads to a shot on net at the other end. This is the quick transition game the Avalanche like.
A nice read by Malinski after a turnover in the neutral zone by the Eagles forwards. Because it starts off a turnover, his gap isn’t great, but he closes in on his guy, reads the play, and pokes the pass away, ending the rush.
Malinski makes a nice play in the neutral zone to body the opposing player off the puck. He fumbles the puck in his own end, but instead of panicking and throwing it up the wall, he eats the puck in the corner and waits for help. The puck is shielded from the opposing players, and his teammate digs it out for a breakout.
Nice Work Off a Face-Off
After a lost face-off, he sticks with his man, and uses his stick to his advantage, giving the forward nothing. He pokes the puck away, which starts the transition game for the Eagles.
Powerplay Entry and Passing
This entry is not really traditional, but he makes it work. He starts the breakout, and it ends up on his stick to enter the zone. He doesn’t panic, and makes a nice little chip down low. His best pass comes moments later, when he hits Galchenyuk on the other side of the ice with a nice pass through a tight window.
First AHL Goal
This is what I mean by trusting his instincts. Just 30 minutes into his first professional game, he picked up his first goal. He saw an opening, and jumped into the play, getting the drop pass and firing it over the goalie’s blocker.
Standing His Ground
After a turnover by Polin, he chases down the much bigger Firebirds forward, but he stands his ground. He uses his stick put the pressure on him at first, then throws his body into the forward. That knocks the opposing player off the puck just enough for him to recover and get the puck back.
He knows he’s got back pressure coming from the forwards while he’s defending this odd-man rush, and when the back pressure starts to get closer, he uses his stick to put the pressure on the puck carrier. I don’t think he gets anything on the puck, but it was enough pressure to force a turnover and no shot on net.
It’s hard to tell if he gets the block on this play, but it’s what he does after that is noticeable. With a forechecker on him, he doesn’t panic, and makes a nice move around him. Then he sends an easy breakout pass around the other forechecker, and the Eagles are headed the other way.
Instead of making the easy pass to his defensive partner, he goes for the quick breakout up the ice, hitting Foudy up the middle. That creates a chance for Meyers at the offensive end.
It’s only three games, but it’s hard not to be encouraged by what you’re seeing. At 24, he’s older than most prospects, so you’d hope to see a game that translates immediately to the pro level, and it looks like he has that game. If you’re the Avalanche, you’re happy with the returns so far.
Stay tuned to CHN for more film rooms like this, as we have more planned for both the Avalanche and the Eagles.