Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Look Up - WAAAAY UP (Malenstyn to Trail)

(Malenstyn on PIJHL.com)

The Trail Smoke Eaters just got a lot bigger. 6'7, 255lbs Matthew Malenstyn committed to the Smokies after attending their spring camp. Malenstyn impressed me with his play as an AP for Trail during the coastal trip this past season. For someone who hadn't played at the Junior A level, he stepped into the line-up and didn't look out of place. He made several good plays and I can only think of one specific time when someone was able to use their speed to beat him. One Trail player told me at the time that Malenstyn had outperformed several of the veterans on the club in those games.

Malenstyn moves well for a big man and one of the first things Jim Ingram told me about him when we discussed the commitment was how good of an athlete the Surrey native was. Ingram believes there is a lot of untapped potential in him. Malenstyn believes it as well. He's busting his butt in the gym and on the ice already this summer. He's also working hard with coaches and trainers on the coast to learn a new position as the Smokies plan on using Malenstyn primarily as a forward.

That's certainly a change for Matt after spending the past two seasons as a defenceman in the PIJHL. However, Malenstyn and Ingram are confident he'll be able to learn the new position and provide versatility in case of injuries or penalty trouble. A player is hurt or kicked out of the game? Malenstyn can drop back to the blue line. Injuries build up on defence? Malenstyn can play a few games on the back end to fill in.

As for why Ingram is moving him up front, part of it is the depth that Trail has on the back end (with returning players and strong recruits) and the other part seems to be the physical element that Malenstyn can bring. Ingram expects Malenstyn to win a lot of battles in the corners, toss out some big bruising hits and clog up the front of the net. Who is going to be able to move a man that big when he parks his butt in front of the goal? We saw how well that can work in the Chicago/Vancouver series.

A couple of people I've talked to about Malenstyn instantly said "oh this guy is just going to be a goon." That's not the case. Certainly he'll be willing to stand up for his team. His 177 penalty minutes should show that. However, he's not one dimensional. He put up 13 points and scored 6 times from the blue line last season. Malenstyn tells me he's working on a shot that clocked in the 90s. The raw skills he has were enough to get him some invites to WHL camps that he passed up to come to Trail. This is someone who only really started taking hockey seriously in the past few seasons and that dedication is moving him in the right direction.

I'll have an interview with Jim Ingram on Malenstyn tonight on Overtime. Matthew will join me on the show tomorrow or Thursday.


...Congrats to former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff and the Kelowna Rockets for earning a spot in the Memorial Cup finals. The big game is on Sunday and I'm sure everyone out here will be cheering for the Bloodoff Brothers and Kyle St. Denis in that one.

...Seems like the USHL is trying to raid the BCHL talent pool this off season. Their draft included a number of BCHL players. Can you really blame them? The BCHL is proving itself to be the top Junior A league in Canada with loads of talent that will move on to the NCAA and eventually pro hockey. That being said, it's a little frustrating that a team could conceivably come along and just pluck someone away that another team developed. We're not talking about Major Junior vs. Junior A here. If the USHL is a Junior A league and we're partnering with them in ventures like the World Junior A Challenge perhaps we should work out a more reasonable player transfer agreement that isn't just a little bit of cash. Might even be fun to set up a battle between the USHL champs and the RBC Cup winners. I just don't think it should be open season on CJHL players for them. Of course I say that from a slightly biased position.

...Look for the BCHL to go back to a schedule that includes a visit to each team in the league for this coming season. Thank goodness! It didn't seem right that we didn't get to visit Vancouver Island last year.

...Geoff Courtnall stepped down as coach of the Victoria Grizzlies. Now that it seems obvious he wasn't staying for the long term I wonder if it wouldn't have been better for the team to hire a career coach for their important RBC Cup season. Just another team now looking for a new coach. It's been much busier on that front this off season than it was last.

...Pittsburgh in 6 and Detroit in 5.

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