I thought we could revel for a moment in what has been a difficult time in our current state of lives with the Corona virus that has been a front and center concern. I’m going to begin where I last left off with the Binghamton Devils’ profile series, which included some questions for members of the Panel. Please be safe as we are all in this together.
In this mini-series, you’ll find five questions for Tino concerning the defense last season and a look at rookie goaltender Gilles Senn, who has been closely followed by Emily this season. Duncan Field now joins the discussion concerning the development of rookie Mikhail Maltsev in his debut on North America soil as I continue this series of reports in moving forward during this pause.
With the AHL season currently on hold, there’s one player that has been impressive enough to take notice playing for the Binghamton Devils, and that’s Mikhail Maltsev. The 22-year-old native of St. Petersburg, Russian, was drafted by New Jersey in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2016 and has played throughout the line-up for the BDevils. In 49 games, Maltsev collected 11 goals and 10 assists while his adjustments on N/A soil were active being granted time on the powerplay, alongside killing penalties.
Maltsev is quite the specimen, listed at 6’ 3” and 221 lbs to go on that large frame for a younger prospect. Although you would expect dominance in the corners, this was not the case early on. However, he had picked up the pace recently and was using this to his advantage crushing players in the process.
In his rookie campaign before the shutdown, Maltsev centered the second line with Chris Conner and Fabian Zetterlund on the wings along with filling in on the top line between Brett Seney and Jesper Boqvist in the absence of Ben Street for NJ before the break. When Street returned to Binghamton, Maltsev continued his role as a top 6 forward for the BDevils.
Our Panel member Duncan Field had this to say involving the 3rd Quarter Results in seeing his grades improve from a 73 in the opening quarter to 82 in the third.
“Mikhail Maltsev has continued his steady development throughout the third quarter of the season. While earlier in the year he showed flashes of his offensive talent, his play has become more consistent, even as key offensive players have jumped to the NHL squad. He has played throughout the top-9, and is using his speed and physicality with more consistency and effectiveness. His point production still doesn’t quite match his potential, but I have been greatly encouraged by his play during a huge push by the club, and at a time when the roster is continually changed. He has shown all of the tools required to be a future NHL’er, now all I want is for the production to follow.”
Following his evaluation, I asked @DuncanMRF five questions concerning Maltsev alongside a more personal one;
Let’s begin shall we with your assessment of forward Mikhail Maltsev. What are your thoughts in his rookie campaign so far for the Binghamton Devils?
I think Mikhail Maltsev has mostly come as advertised. He’s shown flashes of his skill - both in the shootout and otherwise - and the raw physical tools to play an effective role throughout the lineup. As the Binghamton roster changed due to injury and NHL callups, Maltsev rotated throughout the top-9, and proved to be an effective complementary player in the top-6 for long stretches.
He uses his big frame (6’3 and well over 200 pounds) to his advantage, and I like his skating and agility for his size. My only ‘concern’, if I were to have any, is that his production hasn’t always matched his potential to contribute.
In the 3rd Quarter Reports, you mentioned: “His point production still doesn’t quite match his potential..”. If we could dig deeper, what exactly did you imply? Was this related to his adjustment period for a smaller ice surface in N/A?
My intention with that specific quote was to draw something into focus - the Devils fanbase (myself included) can get excited about particular prospects, and Maltsev has been one of those targets this year. He’s shown flashes of high skill. He can skate. He’s 6’3 and can use his size. All of those things are good.
However, he’s scoring at roughly a 0.5 p/g pace. That’s still pretty good, but that production is less than I think he’s capable of. All prospects need time to adjust, especially as they move leagues and get used to a smaller ice surface. While I think he still has good potential, I think the fanbase needs to temper their excitement a little bit.
I think he has an outside shot at a bottom-6 role in the NHL next year, but he’s not at the top of my list for callups. He needs a bit more time to refine his game and figure out the right mix of skill and physicality. People might call me pessimistic for that approach, but I think pencilling Maltsev into the NHL top-9 next season is premature.
This is far from a perfect comparison, but for me I can’t help but compare Maltsev’s context to Michael McLeod’s. I think if you asked the fanbase, many of them might suggest that Maltsev has more potential to regularly play in the NHL at this point than McLeod. Yet this past season Maltsev scored two fewer points than McLeod in two more games. Part of that is adjusting to North American Ice, and part of that is perception - McLeod has been around for a while, and Maltsev is newer. But both players 22 years old, and McLeod - to my eye - played a more defensive role on the team.
I personally feel that Maltsev’s offensive potential eclipses McLeod’s, but comparing the two might help give some context into why the hype train might need to slow down a touch. Mikhail has a really great set of tools, but he is still raw. Time will show whether he is able to put it all together.
I don’t recall a player of his statue at the tender age of (just turned) 22 years-old. Who does he remind you of the past or any player’s that are present?
I can’t recall a player that matches his particular mix of skills, size, and mobility. For some reason, he kind of reminds me of a slightly taller Dainus Zubrus, with a bigger reach.
Where do you see Maltsev in the line-up if he can make the big club next season out of training camp?
I’d be surprised to see Maltsev in the NHL lineup in anything other than a mid-late season call-up next season. If he does make the team, I’d hope it would be in a top-9 role. While he has the size and physical tools to be an effective checking player, that wouldn’t be the best use of his skills.
I was surprised Duncan that you are located in Canada when we first connected. Could you share your journey on how you became a Devils fan?
Growing up, my family only watched hockey during the Olympics. Being a good Canadian kid, I rooted for the good guys in red. I got to watch Brodeur play some really great games for the national team. When I become more interested in hockey in high school, I decided I didn’t want to root for the Leafs like everyone else. The only player I could really think of was Brodeur, so I started watching Devils games and just became attached to the team. Things started to get exciting, and a few years in I got to follow along with the 2012 Cup run. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag (to put it lightly) since then, but becoming interested in the draft and prospects have helped me through these tough times.
Thanks Duncan for your time and insights! I’m going to include several more in the future with the members of The Panel to help fill the void for hockey fans here and abroad during this pause of our lives with the COVID-19 era upon us.
Next up will be forward Nathan Bastian with Chris Wassel followed by the coaches featuring Dave Rogan. Again, please be safe as we are all in this together.