When Kyle Dubas reacquired Denis Malgin this past offseason, many media and fans, including us, questioned the signing. Despite playing 184 games over four seasons from 2016 to 2020 for a Florida Panthers team that wasn’t very good, Malgin did little to impress us when the Maple Leafs first acquired him.
Malgin is small, at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. He is, however, speedy enough on his skates. Still, Malgin didn’t seem to have what it took to be a full-time NHLer.
To make matters worse, the Maple Leafs parted with 6-foot-4 and 210-pound Mason Machment in the deal that brought Malgin to the Maple Leafs. Marchment was and is a physical player who produced decently in the AHL, scoring 37 goals and 69 points in 112 games over his last three seasons with the Marlies. He also compiled over 100 minutes in penalties.
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The trade didn’t seem like a big deal until last season when Marchment exploded statistically. Suddenly and without much warning, he scored 18 goals and 47 points over 54 games for the Panthers.
Malgin Went Home to Play in Switzerland, But Decided to Return this Season
After only getting into eight games with the Maple Leafs in the 2019-20 season, and not scoring a single point, Malgin decided to return home and play in the Swiss league in the fall of 2020. Malgin lit it up in the Swiss league by scoring 40 goals and adding 54 assists (for 94 points) in 93 games over two seasons. He also represented Switzerland in the 2022 Bejing Winter Olympics where he scored one goal in three games.
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On July 13th Dubas signed Malgin to a one-year league-minimum $750,000 contract.
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After a surprisingly good training camp, Malgin not only made the opening game roster but also found himself playing on the left wing of the second line alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. Malgin even scored a goal in the opening game in Montreal, a game the Maple Leafs ultimately lost to the Canadiens 4-3. He and Nylander seemed to have strong chemistry on the ice.
Malgin’s Analytics Are Strong
After going scoreless in his next three games, Malgin was eventually replaced on the second line by Nick Robertson. Since then, Malgin has been in and out of the lineup. To date, he has played seven of the eleven games the Maple Leafs have played.
Malgin has two goals and one assist and is plus-4 in those games. In fact, Malgin is second on the team in plus/minus, one point behind Mark Giordano at plus-5. He’s only one of seven Maple Leafs’ players in the pluses in plus/minus.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, Malgin is the only Maple Leafs’ player who has played more than two games and has not been scored against while he was on the ice in five-on-five situations. In the seven games Malgin has played, he has been on the ice for three goals for and zero goals against while averaging just under eleven minutes of ice time per game.
A deeper look into Malgin’s underlying numbers shows that, at five-on-five, Malgin has been on the ice for 61.3% of the shot attempts (that’s first on the team), 59.2 percent of the actual shots (second on the team), 62.1 percent of the Expected Goals (second on the team), 62 percent of the Scoring Chances (fifth on the team), and 64 percent of the High-Danger Chances (first on the team).
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Malgin has played on every one of the bottom three lines and has been a plus in every analytics category on whatever line he’s played.
Malgin, By the Eye Test
By the eye test, he has been very good at carrying the puck and seems to have the ability to stickhandle his way out of trouble. He’s fast on his skates both with and without the puck. While he can provide offense, he’s also very responsible defensively. His lack of size has not negatively affected his game.
The season is young yet, and this is not the playoffs. We will have to see how Malgin handles the grind over the long haul and in the playoffs when the going gets rougher. For now, though, we have no problem seeing Keefe putting him anywhere in the lineup.
Of all of the skaters that Dubas signed over the summer, Malgin has arguably been the organization’s best acquisition.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]