Evgeni Malkin: Option 1A of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

By Eugene Belashchenko

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Evgeni Malkin is a product of the Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey school, and has
consistently been the top scorer on Russia’s ‘86 national team. He made
his debut on the U18 squad during last season’s 2003 U18 World Junior Championships,
where he skated on the top line with Alexander Ovechkin. He made his Super League
debut during the 2003-04 season, working his way up from the fourth line. Despite
being knocked out of the lineup for the last couple of months of the season, he
was voted Russian Super League’s (Russia 1) Rookie of The Year for the 2003-04
season. Please refer to the U18 WJC review regarding a detailed evaluation of
Evgenii Malkin’s performance at that tournament.

U18 WJC (April 2004) Grade: A: Despite the concerns that the
concussion he suffered a couple of months earlier would sideline the young forward
from the U18 WJC, Malkin looked very strong during the training camp,
showing no signs of the injury. He delivered an excellent performance at tournament.
The talented center started the tournament off a bit slow, with his line struggling
to put the puck in the net. As the tournament went on, Malkin’s production
returned to normal, and the center finished second in scoring on the Russian
squad behind only Roman Voloshenko. The young forward possesses a great combination
of size, skill and hockey sense. He did not hesitate to throw his body around
and often dictated the tempo of the game with his speed, passing and great puckhandling.

A big difference between the U18 WJC and the previous tournaments was the fact
that Malkin was forced to carry his line a lot more than before. At the previous
tournaments, which were mostly against European squads, his smaller linemates
Denis Parshin and Dmitri Shitikov could hold their own physically against the
opponents. The two young forwards, especially Parshin, struggled to adjust to
the more physical hockey against bigger opponents. Malkin did effectively interact
with Parhsin, who set up Malkin up on several occasions. He also played well
with Kiril Lyamin, who often skated with the forwards in the offensive zone.
Shitikov’s role was more that of clean up, as he scored most of his goals
by collecting the rebounds near the crease and putting them in the net. While
Malkin was effective in the earlier games of the tournament, he really revved
up his game during the semifinals and finals games against Canada and the US.
Against Canada, the talented center was a threat whenever he hit the ice and
set up an open net goal by Shitikov early in the game, and then scored a goal
of his own. Regardless of his production, which was impressive on its own, Malkin
showed a lot of leadership, delivering a consistent presence at both ends of
the ice and taking a lot of pressure off his linemates, as well as the other
lines. The young forward was solid defensively throughout the tournament, logging
a lot of time in shorthanded situations.

1986 DOB 5 Nations Tournament (Feb. 2004) Grade B: Malkin
finished the tournament atop all Russian players in goals scored with four.
However, considering his immense potential and previous performances, this outing
was only average for Russia’s talented center. For various reasons, the
young forward could not convert on all his scoring chances and just didn’t
get the bounces to go his way. Despite the problems, Malkin did manage to score
when it mattered –- including the deciding penalty shot in Russia’s
6-5 victory over Team USA. Defensively he played very well, showing off his
skating and vision of the ice. In addition, while not a physical player, Malkin
did not hesitate to move through traffic and use his imposing frame to fight
at the boards. After the tournament, Malkin suffered a concussion. Fortunately,
it was not serious and U18 Team Russia’s best player will likely be back
in the lineup for the U18 WJC.

2003 World Cup (August 2003) Grade: 9.0/10: Had a great tournament,
finishing it as Team Russia’s MVP. Centered Russia’s first line,
between Denis Parshin and Dmitri Shitikov. Suffered an injury in the first game,
when, after scoring two goals, Malkin went for the third, shot the puck to the
five hole, the puck made it’s way under the goalie, but stayed on the
line. The young forward went in to finish the play, and a collision occurred
at the net between him, a defenseman and the goalie. As a result Malkin sprained
his knee. He was able to come back and finish the tournament, but wasn’t
100 percent from that point on.


Skating: A technically sound skater… great balance and lateral
movement…very good top speed…above average acceleration… needs to further
improve his first step and his aggressiveness. Shot: Possesses
a great slap shot, which is precise with a lot of power and a quick release…possesses
a very dangerous wrist shot. Technical Ability: Has very soft
hands — possibly the softest in the 2004 draft…a capable puck handler…a
very good stick handler with excellent control. Faceoffs: Above
average at the faceoff circle, but needs to gain power to further improve his
technique, as he struggles to win face-offs in the Super League (Russia 1) against
stronger veteran professionals. Pass: An superb passer with excellent
poise and timing…capable of making quick, precise passes over long distances…also
great at making no-look passes…possesses one unique and very effective move:
he leaves the puck behind for another player, while remaining in motion, doing
it so deceptively that the opposition often continues to concentrate on him for
several seconds. Hockey Sense: A very mature player…very calm,
collected and mentally strong… possesses great vision of the ice…has a great
awareness of his linemates, anticipating where they are going to be and making
great, sometimes “blind” passes. Defensive Play: Very
responsible in his own zone, with great awareness…uses his slap shot more often
then his wrist shot because he often remains closer to the blue line to make sure
the defensive zone is covered in the case of a rush the other way…a very good
skater backwards…reads the plays very well, intercepting passes, lifting a player’s
stick at the right moment…can make a great first pass out of the defensive zone.
Physical Play: Isn’t naturally a physical player, preferring
more of a European, technical style of hockey…can take and deliver physical
punishment very well, even at the Super League level…great awareness under pressure
and is very hard to knock off the puck…even i
f a body is between him and
the puck, he uses his reach and great stick handling ability to direct the puck
to a teammate and away from the opponent…fights hard at the boards, but here
again, needs to bulk up to be more effective, but already very hard to knock down.

Malkin is a great package of size and skill. He is responsible defensively and has great awareness at both ends of the ice. The young forward’s upside in the NHL would be that of a top line center. Very importantly, the talented center has spent the entire 2003-04 season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Super League (Russia 1), gaining valuable seasoning from the experienced Super League veterans and former NHLers, who stock the wealthy club’s roster. The young forward further boosted his draft stock with top notch performances at both the U20 and the U18 WJC tournaments.

RP Draft Projection: Second overall pick

For detailed
profiles beyond the top 5 Russian prospects eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry
Draft, subscribe to RussianProspects
Premium Coverage
or purchase the RussianProspects
2004 NHL Entry Draft Guide
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2003-04Team Russia 86 5 Nations Tourn

2003-04Metallurg Magnitogorsk Super League (Reg. Season)34391212
2003-04U18 Team Russia U18 WJC (Intl.)644831+4
2003-04U20 Team Russia U20 WJC (Intl.)61450+2
2003-04Team Russia 84 4 Nations Tourn. (Intl.)321331
2003-04Metallurg Magnitogorsk Romazan Cup (Preseason)00000
2002-03Metallurg Magnit. 86 Jr. League (Playoffs)789176
2002-03Team Ural Region 86 Regional Tourn. (Intl.)5426142002-03Team Russia 86 5 Nations Tourn. (Intl.)43360
2002-03Team Russia 86 6 Nations Tourn. (Intl.)33690
2002-03U18 Team Russia U18 WJC IIHF (Intl.)6549911
2002-03Team Russia 86 Junior World Cup (Intl.)42240-3
2001-02Metallurg Magnit. 85 Jr. League (Playoffs)746102
2001-02Team Ural Region 85 Regional Tourn. (Intl.)42240
2001-02Team Ural Region 86 Regional Tourn. (Intl.)559146