|Ryan Malone is currently fourth on the team in points and assists and leads the Penguins in hits with 58. Ryan Malone highlights|
But Greg Malone's present value to these Penguins extends way beyond any miniscule mention in a media guide. Even though his job title now refers to him as a professional scout for the Phoenix Coyotes, Malone was one of the architects who put together the team that will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final starting Saturday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
As the Penguins' head scout from 1990-2006, Malone was at the forefront of every Penguins draft, meaning he had his hand in selecting 11 of the 20 players that should dress for Game 1 against the Detroit Red Wings Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
He was there to make the easy selections, like Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. He also found gems like Rob Scuderi in 1998 (fifth round), Ryan Malone in 1999 (fourth round), Maxime Talbot in 2002 (eighth round), Tyler Kennedy in 2004 (fourth round) and Kris Letang in 2005 (third round).
Malone also oversaw the selections of Brooks Orpik in 2000 (first round) and Ryan Whitney in 2002 (first round), plus Colby Armstrong (first round, 2001) and Erik Christensen (third round, 2002). The latter two were shipped to Atlanta this past February in the Marian Hossa trade.
"The one thing with all these kids is not only are they good hockey players, but they're good people," Malone told NHL.com. "It's gratifying we were able to work as a staff and put it all together. (Former Penguins GM) Craig Patrick gave us some great direction to do it. The blueprint was there and now it's showing.
"Besides my son, all those guys that are there that came up through our system. I'm more than overjoyed for all of them."
Malone credited his scouting staff with a lot of the Penguins' obvious drafting success. Remnants of his staff remain in the Penguins organization.
Chuck Grillo is in his seventh season as a Penguins amateur scout. Kevin Stevens and Matt Recchi, each in their third season on Pittsburgh's scouting staff, got their starts under Malone. Gilles Meloche, who is the Penguins' goalie coach, also has been an amateur scout for 17 seasons.
Ed Johnston, who was Patrick's assistant general manager from 1997-2006, also remains with the Penguins as a senior advisor in the hockey operations department. Johnston has been with the Penguins for 24 seasons now.
"Our staff was fabulous," Patrick told NHL.com. "There are only a couple guys left with the Penguins now, but Greg was the head amateur guy and he and his staff did a fabulous job in getting talent. We had some early picks in Crosby and Malkin and those guys are easy, but they found a lot of other guys later on in the rounds."
And for the most part, Malone and his staff were dead-on in their assessments.
He said they figured Orpik would turn into the physical, steady, stay-at-home defenseman that he has become because that's exactly what they saw when he played for Boston College from 1998-2001.
"When he hit, he was a truck hitting guys," Malone said. "In his last couple of years (at BC), he was hitting guys so hard you kind of had to peel them off the boards. Now he's just developed into a player who plays within his means and he has become the physical presence."
Scuderi had a structured off-ice personality during his time playing with Orpik at Boston College, and he's taken that to the NHL as a steady defenseman.
"Scuderi was a guy we targeted going into the draft," Malone recalled. "We knew we didn't have to draft him early, but we wanted to draft him. He was very consistent and made very few mistakes in the college game. I think if you go back and look at the past history of players, it usually comes to light somewhere."
The same holds true for Whitney, who projected to be a puck-moving defenseman, and so far for rookies Kennedy and Letang, who each are still developing their offensive instincts.
"The nice thing with these guys is they have the ability," Malone said, "and now they have found their niche."
But while still playing vital roles in putting the Penguins on the precipice of greatness, Ryan Malone and Talbot have gone against the scouting reports Greg Malone and his staff came up with at draft time.
Ryan Malone had a knack for scoring the highlight-reel goal, but he didn't do it often. He scored only 14 goals in 51 games while playing for Omaha of the USHL when then-Penguins scout Herb Brooks was keeping notes on him.
"As far as the other parts of his game, yes, you could see those," Greg Malone said of his son, "but was he going to fit into a goal scoring role and be able to do that?"
On the other hand, Talbot scored 46 goals with Hull in the QMJHL in 2002-03, the season following his draft year.
"He ran a lot of numbers," Malone said.
Well, Ryan Malone has developed into the goal scorer and power-play threat with 27 goals this season and 87 in his four-year career, while Talbot has become one of the Penguins' finest penalty killers and defensive forwards. He had 12 goals this season and just 30 since debuting in 2005.
"I'm a little surprised in the role he's been put in because of the numbers, but he's found his niche," Greg Malone said of Talbot. "He's a big part of their team."
Even though he seems so far removed now, Greg Malone still is close to his old team. He may not get a ring if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup, but he wears his pride as a hockey dad and prophetic forecaster of NHL talent on his sleeve.
"You see it not only in hockey, but in other sports, too," Malone said. "When you lose there are changes made to management staff. I can remember Craig Patrick saying, 'This is the right thing to do for the organization. We may not be around to enjoy it with them, but let's do it right.' "
Pittsburgh hockey fans are thankful they did.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.