Oilers’ Malone Making the Most of His NHL Opportunity

Brad Malone finding his way back to the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers at the age of 32 after a three-year hiatus is a feel-good story that should serve as a motivator for the players grinding away down in the Oilers’ American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Bakersfield Condors.

Malone has brought energy to the team in his short stint so far. In last Saturday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, he threw a heavy check on a Lightning player. Unfortunately, the visiting team scored seconds later. When the Lightning players were celebrating, Pat Maroon shoved Malone, and in return, the Oilers’ forward shoved Mikhail Sergachev to the ice. All five Lightning players went after the lone Malone, and a melee broke out, bringing all five Oilers’ skaters into the ruckus.

On a team with two megastars, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, there’s room for players that can get under other players’ skin, bring a physical element and can chip in offensively in timely moments. This is exactly what Malone has brought in his limited time back in the big leagues.

Malone Has Been a Good Leader in the Oilers’ Organization

Malone has been a part of the Oilers organization for the last five seasons, mainly with the Condors in the AHL. He had a cup of coffee with the Oilers in 2019, playing in 16 games. He was signed to a two-year minor-league contract in 2020 and because of his leadership qualities, he was named the third captain in Condors’ history in Feb. 2021.

Brad Malone Bakersfield Condors
Brad Malone, formerly of the Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Malone has a unique role in that he’s not meant to be an NHL regular. The organization put the “C” on his chest in Bakersfield because his main purpose was to mentor their prospects to become exceptional professionals. Oilers’ forward Kailer Yamamoto spoke of Malone’s encouragement in the right-winger’s path to become an NHL regular, saying, “he’s one of the best vets I’ve played with, both as a teammate and a friend. He’s taught me a lot, I roomed with him (in the AHL) on the road. I took notes on how he prepares for games, how he takes care of his body.”

Malone understood his role in Bakersfield, but when Edmonton ran into injury problems, they signed the Miramichi, NB native to a one-year, two-way contract to play with the big club. His last NHL goal prior to rejoining the Oilers came when he was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015. But after signing his new contract with the Oilers on Feb. 10, he was finally able to score another one — 2,288 days later against the Washington Capitals.

Malone Has Been Effective in His Call-up

When former Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft got the call to coach the Oilers, Malone spoke of the enormous opportunity for everyone in the Condors locker room, saying, “we had a little team meeting after Woody got called up down in Bakersfield. This is an opportunity that every guy in the American league wants. To have a guy that’s seen you every day when the cameras aren’t on whether it’s in practice, or on the bus, or however you want to say it.” Ironically, it was the Bakersfield captain who was given the NHL opportunity.

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Malone set the tone in his first game of the season in a win over the Philadelphia Flyers. He threw three hits, only second behind Evander Kane. One of them was against Flyers’ resident tough guy Zack MacEwan, who was sent flying to the ice. He followed it up with the biggest game of his NHL career against the Capitals on March 9. He got an assist on Cody Ceci’s go-ahead goal in the first period, with hard work in front of the net. The Capitals tied it up, but he sent the crowd into a frenzy when he got the go-ahead goal himself in the second period, from a nice feed from linemate Zack Kassian.

Malone’s style of play and energy reminds me of former Oiler Matt Hendricks. He was a hard-nosed battler that wasn’t the most skilled but was the hardest working player on any given night. He’d finish hard checks and chip in on the scoreboard occasionally. He was known as a “glue guy”, that kept the players upbeat by being vocal on the bench.

This type of player is important because they bring other players into the fight with them. Although the Lightning scored on the play that resulted in the melee between the two teams last Saturday night, the response from the Oilers when five players went after Malone was fantastic. Kassian got tangled up with his friend Maroon, Josh Archibald came in flying, and Tyson Barrie and Philip Broberg — who aren’t used to the rough stuff — came into the scrum. A fight ensued between Sergachev and Archibald and the Russian defenseman may have won the bout, but in the process, it took him off the ice and into the box for five minutes.

A simple shove from Malone was all it took for the commotion to unfold, something that’s been lacking from the Oilers all season. In the next game against the Detroit Red Wings, forward Givani Smith shoved the young Broberg and the Oilers’ defender wasn’t afraid to hold his ground. Why? Because Malone came in right after to deal with Smith.

Related: Oilers’ Foward Brad Malone’s Road Back to the NHL by the Numbers

There’s no telling how long Malone will remain in the Oilers’ lineup with Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set to return from injury. That said if they sneak into the playoffs, a physical 6-foot-2, 217-pound jolt of energy is exactly what the Oilers will need to finally start a long playoff run.