Denis Malgin is entering his final year of eligibility in the Top 25 Under 25 in a tough spot within the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. After a strong season the Swiss League where he led Lausanne HC in scoring, Malgin missed most of last season and spent the final few weeks of the Leafs on the Taxi Squad and Black Aces. Heading into this season, the likelihood he’ll get a job on the Leafs has somehow fallen even more.
Malgin is a good hockey player, but as he reaches the end of his time in the Top 25 Under 25 the question must be if he’s an NHLer or not. The answer is obviously something in the middle, a tweener, which is why he found his way ranked on our list, but his overall impact on the team moving forward isn’t certain to be the same as the past.
Malgin is also the lone RFA still awaiting a contract with the Leafs. He could’ve gone into arbitration this summer, but elected not to, so right now there’s no hard end-date for this piece of business.
At the age of 24, Malgin is almost certainly not going to improve as a hockey player, so what he is now is what he will be for the next few years. As an NHL tweener, he definitely should’ve been one of the better players in the National League in Switzerland, and he was. He finished top on his team in scoring and top-20 in the league after a full and healthy season. Above him on the scoring charts were Eric Fehr, Daniel Winnik, Chris Didomenico, Mark Arcobello, and third leading scorer Sven Andrighetto. A list of players that should tell you exactly the talent level of the league is.
After his team exited the playoffs in the quarterfinals, Malgin was on the first plane back to Toronto to join the team. The effort put towards bringing him back to North America and getting him into NHL practices showed the team sees Malgin as a player worth having. Except in the lineup, that is.
NHL GP and Nic Petan
Malgin is one of 49 players to hit that milestone 100 career games played to be considered a successful draft pick, and as a fourth round pick that’s pretty good. In fact, he is only about a dozen games behind Travis Dermott in regular season games. All but eight of his 192 NHL games have come with the Florida Panthers, who traded Malgin to the Leafs for sudden (but possibly short-lived) emergence Mason Marchment.
With the Leafs, Malgin has struggled to get into the lineup even on an injured roster. in 2019-20, Sheldon Keefe played Malgin a handful of times, his ice time quickly petered out, and his job was given to Yegor Korshkov of all players before the season was cut short. Timing has been unfortunate with the COVID season, but I’m starting to see the writing on the walls that Malgin is going to be a player the Leafs like a lot until they have to play him.
Why do I think that? Because that’s exactly the life Nic Petan has had moving from the Winnipeg Jets to the Leafs before finding a new home with the Abbotsford Canucks this summer.
Petan made his NHL debut at age 20 and played 108 games before getting claimed off waivers by the Leafs. In those 108 games, Petan was a competent player, but just kept falling down the lineup as he failed to make good on opportunities. The same thing happened with the Leafs and he turned into a very good AHL player for the Marlies to help lift their boat during some lean years.
Malgin started earlier on a bad Panthers team and got lots of time on their fourth line, he then got a season on their third line, but by 2019 the team had gotten some real players and Malgin just wasn’t useful on the fourth line. He actually got passed over by Leaf Great Dominic Toninato. And I think that’s the story here. Players like Malgin and Petan are good at pretending a bad team has a competent third line, but when the talent level of the team goes up they lose those offensive zone starts and try to put up meaningful offense on a fourth line. High-risk-high-reward hockey is not what coaches like because their too much variance in the results. You never want to see your fourth line take a dumb penalty or get embarrassed on a bad-looking goal. Boring is Best, according to coaches, they end up being one of the better players in the AHL rather than a replacement level player in the NHL.
The Leafs roster and why I did not rank Malgin
As much as the they try to convince us otherwise, the Leafs are a good offensive team. They have lots of players who are competent in middle-six NHL roles, especially this season. Could Malgin play in one of those roles? Maybe, but there is no doubt there are better players the Leafs could put there instead. As things stand right now, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, Joey Anderson, Denis Malgin, and Kirill Semyonov are all capable players on the outside of the Leafs top-12 and there are currently zero jobs for any of them — maybe one extra skater spot.
While Petan did get into a dozen NHL games a year while he was with the Leafs, this math makes it almost impossible for me to think Malgin is going to play for the Leafs this year. Plus next season he’ll likely have to stay on top of the rising tide of prospects like Robertson, Holmberg, SDA, and who knows who else. For that reason I didn’t rank Malgin.
Was I being too harsh in not ranking Denis Malgin?
This poll is closed
I didn’t rank him either
He at least deserves to be top-20
A guy with 192 NHL GP should be top-10 on this list no matter what
How we voted
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What the Voters had to say
Brigstew: I didn’t rank him, not because I don’t think he’s a bad player, or that he can’t play in the NHL. I think he can, and be perfectly boring at it. But I also continually forget he exists and I felt like taking that into account in my rankings.
Species: Malgin? He was for me one of the most difficult players to finally choose a firm landing spot in the Top 25. My usual ranking preference for forwards is to go high on promising, young raw talent with high ceilings, but Malgin is not young, and his talent is not raw anymore. He is what he is; competent and able to step into a role in the bottom-six. However, it feels like he’s so far removed from the organization that I couldn’t help but bump him down several times in favour of those younger forwards with raw talent on the way up the ranks, like Nicholas Abruzzese. That was a really hard choice as I’m not projecting Abruzzese to be stepping into the Leafs top-six anytime soon, but it was a process to follow that would at least let me get a final ranking firmed up, and that was Malgin at 15.
Katya: On the one hand, Malign might not be someone who can prosper on the Leafs. But I don’t think Sheldon Keefe should get to decide player value for me, so I did rank him as an NHL-capable player because I think he is. You could have replaced Joe Thornton with him last year in Switzerland or the Leafs and improved the team. It would be a different type of team, but still better. I ranked him based on my belief that he’s not just another Nic Petan, but like with everyone else, I guess we’ll see if that’s true or not.
Oddly in love with the music in this highlight package. Starts off piratey, but gets orchestral at the end.