Florida Panthers 20 Under 21: #4 Denis Malgin

Swiss forward wows at rookie tournament

If the writers at LBC were to re-vote today, Denis Malgin would likely land a place or two higher on this list, because this undersized Swiss forward has proven himself a very capable and creative offensive weapon.

#4 - Denis Malgin - Forward - Zurich Lions (NLA)

Highest Ranking: 4 Lowest Ranking: 6

If you watched the Swiss team play in last year’s World Junior U20 Championships, you could see this coming. While the Swiss team was not a factor in the tourney, you could see Denis Malgin’s game, and the high level he plays at on full display. One word just continues to pop into the brain watching him play, whether at the tourney, at development camp, or at the Panthers rookie tournament, and it is this: "Slippery." He has a great ability to appear at exactly the right moment exactly where you’d want him to be.

You can see that Malgin is extremely adept at slowing the game down with his vision and hockey IQ. There is no panic, no hurrying him, and this is true despite his very recent transition to a smaller, North American Ice sheet. Harvey Fiakov spoke to Malgin about this after his second (stellar) rookie tournament game:

"The rink is smaller but I'm getting better and better every game. I think [I'm getting more confident for training camp]. Five goals, it's nice. I think speed and hockey IQ [helps me].''

Hockey IQ, indeed. Malgin has consistently shown an ability to disappear and reappear on defenses. His off-puck movement, support, and positioning are exceptional. His tip-in goal against Washington in the rookie tournament was the product of exactly that propensity for finding dangerous ice before the defense noticed him: he slipped into the high slot without a Capitals defenseman realizing it until it was too late. This penchant for intelligent, slippery play makes his line-mates more effective as well. Against Washington, he played with Kyle Rau and Jayce Hawryluk on his wings. Not a big line. Not an intimidating line. Yet they produced four goals in that game.

Not that this is surprising for Malgin. He was an assist machine for his Swiss team at the U20’s, with 8 helpers in 6 games played. Yet, he his smart enough to play any way a game dictates. Soon-to-be Panther Michael Matheson had great things to say about Malgin to Harvey Fiakov:

Mike Matheson

It is hard not to be impressed by a kid who moves to Montreal prior to the season to work out in North America. He just as easily could have worked out at home in Europe. That decision appears to be paying dividends at Development and Rookie camps. His transition to the North American sized rink was not supposed to be this smooth. While they have a glowing talent analysis, Hockey’s Future also has concerns:

A boom-or-bust prospect due to his size, Malgin has a high degree of offensive skill with the high end potential to be an Artem Panarin-type scorer. It is equally probable he could play out the rest of his career in the KHL or another Europe league where his game is more suited to the bigger rinks overseas.

Smaller ice, no dice? Not so fast my friends. Maybe it was playing last season with Auston Matthews, maybe it’s that he has been playing with fully grown men in the Swiss A league, but Malgin has not seemed bothered at all by the North American game. Perhaps that also should not have been a surprise to anyone, when you consider the talent report:

Malgin is a solid two-way player who is an adept skater with good hockey smarts. He knows and thinks the game well and his speed allows him to cover ground quickly when he makes a mistake. His shot isn’t the best, but as he gets stronger that should come; nonetheless, he uses his creativity and skill to work his offensive game, which is ever-developing.

In December, 2014, Elite Prospects provided this review:

An offensive forward with decent playmaking abilities, the diminutive Denis Malgin impresses with his strong hockey sense and offensive instincts. Has tremendous puck control and handles the puck with finesse, while rushing up the ice or deking past the opponents defense. Needs to improve his shot, although accurate it's missing power. He also lacks confidence in his face-off play, regardless of his excellent puck-skills. Not overly flashy, but he reaches good top-end speed by keeping his legs moving. Can guide a Power Play and despite his small stature will stand his ground, when he has to battle along the boards.

In addition to his hat-trick against the Caps, this 5’8", 163 lbs. Swiss pivot showed off his goal-scoring abilities in game one of the rookie tournament against Nashville, where he scored two goals and added an assist over the rookie Predators. He played with Juho Lammikko and Tyson Baille as line-mates. Once again, he can seemingly adapt to play anyone’s game. On the final day of the rookie tournament he went ahead and scored the game-winning goal against Tampa Bay, his 6th of the 3-game tourney, while playing on a line with Dryden Hunt and Kyle Rau (who also scored for the rookie Panthers in that game). This final goal was altogether different, as he carried the puck through the neutral zone, attacked on a 2-on-1 with speed and went backhand on the near post.

Denis Malgin certainly grabbed the spotlight at the rookie tournament. He appears to have been well-scouted by the Panthers when they selected him in the 4th round (#102 overall) of the 2015 Entry Draft. Malgin has signed his entry-level deal with the Cats and will play in Springfield this season. While he may take some time to figure out how to play against the speed of AHL opponents, there is every indication that he has the ability and skill set to succeed. Panthers GM Tom Rowe told Jameson Olive, that the Panthers were not surprised by the goal scoring of Malgin, "the pleasant thing was how well he’s played defensively." Rowe also stated that Malgin has a legitimate chance of making the Panthers out of training camp. That sounds a tad lofty of a goal, but Malgin is definitely a prospect to watch moving forward.