While he may not be the flashiest player on the ice, Avalanche prospect and University of North Dakota forward Brad Malone
has been quietly making strides as a player over the past three seasons.
|Malone set career highs in goals (11), assists (14) and points (25) during the 2009-10 season|
The truth is that each NHL prospect has a unique development curve. Some, like Ryan Stoa
or Justin Mercier
, spend four years on a college campus before starting their professional careers. Others, like Paul Stastny
or T.J. Galiardi, break into the league only a year or two after being selected in the NHL Draft. And in rare cases, players like Matt Duchene
and Ryan O’Reilly are able to jump straight to the NHL after being drafted out of junior hockey.
When put into that context, it’s easy to see why Malone is confident that his development curve is on the proper path heading into his senior season.
“I think if you look back from the start of my freshman year to where I am now, I’ve come a long way,” said Malone. “It’s been a testament to the program where I’m at and the commitment of the coaches there. Obviously I’m excited, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s just one step at a time.”
For Malone, a big part of his development has been taking advantage of any opportunities that are presented. After skating mostly on North Dakota’s third and fourth lines during his first two seasons in Grand Forks, the forward was given a chance to play top-six minutes during his junior campaign and responded by posting career-highs in goals (11), assists (14) and points (25).
“It’s about opportunities, confidence and the guys I’ve been surrounded with. I’ve had some great linemates over the past couple of years who make my job pretty easy,” said the 6-foot-2, 207-pound forward. “The numbers aren’t a big part of things, but they’re always a really good bonus.”
Another bonus comes in the form of his extended family. His uncle, Greg Malone, was an 11-year NHL veteran and his cousin, Ryan Malone (Greg’s son), is a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Having those kinds of resources to lean on has been invaluable to Brad’s progress.
“We’re a pretty close-knit family, so they’re always making sure I’m doing alright and giving me little things for support,” said the Miramichi, New Brunswick native. “It’s kind of nice to have someone to lean back on. They’ve been through it already, so having a voice in the back of your head is always nice.”
While having a hockey pedigree in your family can be beneficial, Malone realizes that any future success will come on his own accord.
And that’s why he takes a detail-oriented approach to his summer preparation. In hopes of one day becoming an NHL-caliber power forward, Malone works on adding a few new wrinkles to his game every summer while also fine-tuning his current skill set.
“I’m always trying to add little pieces. I’m a small detail kind of guy, not a flashy player,” said Malone. “I work on the little things. Other than that, it’s about trying to fine-tune my game. There are always guys trying to get better out there, so you have to try to keep pace with them.”
Come the fall, Malone will head back to Grand Forks to complete his senior season at North Dakota and finish up his degree. He also says it’s no secret that his team will have some high expectations for the coming season.
In addition to bringing back a large part of their core, the Fighting Sioux will see an injection of big-name freshmen for the 2010-11 campaign. Seven North Dakota recruits were selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, including first-round picks Derek Forbort (15th overall, Los Angeles) and Brock Nelson (30th overall, New York Islanders). All of that adds up to North Dakota being among a handful of early favorites for a berth in the Frozen Four.
“Those are some big pieces of the puzzle. Our team has a big year ahead of us with some big goals,” said Malone. “Everyone is pretty excited around town and in the locker room. It’s only July, but I can’t wait for October.”