The 20-year-old was selected in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks, he then traveled to Vancouver and participated in Prospects Development Camp, and last week he signed an NHL contract with the Canucks.
The rugged 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward is coming off a very impressive season with the Rimouski Oceanic, helping the team make it all the way to the QMJHL Final. During the season Mallet produced 81 points (34-47-81) in 68 games, to go along with 132 penalty minutes, and followed that up with another 26 points (11-15-26) in the post-season. It was a breakout season for Mallet, who only mustered 39 points in his previous 135 games, spanning two-and-a-half seasons in the QMJHL.
Philippe Boucher, general manager of the Oceanic and former Stanley Cup winning defenceman with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, said a change of position contributed to Mallet’s remarkable season.
“Alex’s profile is more of a winger, I even thought that when I saw him in camp,” said Boucher. “He can be a good skating, power forward as a winger, but once Serge Beausoleil (Oceanic Head Coach) put him at centre, he became a whole different player.”
Although his point total changed after moving back to centre last season, one thing that didn’t was Mallet’s toughness. These days it’s rare for players to have that combination of skill and toughness, something Boucher said will make Mallet a very good pro hockey player.
“Besides being an excellent skater, he can be a very physical guy and I think he will learn to grow into that even more,” he said. “I think being in the pros will help him grow into that part of the game, just being around the older guys that can guide him. He can finish his hits, he can be intimidating physically, and he was very tough in our league last year, probably one of the toughest guys.
“I am not saying that will be the one thing that will make him a good pro player, but it’s never a bad thing when you can combine skills and toughness.”
Like most players that put up as many points as Mallet did last year, there is bound to be a few multi-goal nights throughout the course of the season. None were as big as the evening he had on March 16th against Chicoutimi when Mallet found the back of the net a staggering five times, something that even former Oceanic forward Sidney Crosby failed to do during his tenure in Rimouski.
“You know what? He could have scored nine goals that game, it was incredible, and I have never seen anything like it,” said Boucher. “You remember that Mike Ribeiro goal last year where he put his stick behind his back and scored in overtime? Alex came across the blue line at full speed and the puck bounced weird along the wall and he did the same kind of thing without breaking his stride, stick behind his back, brought it back in front, came in on the goalie and hit the crossbar. I have never seen that and I swear he could have had nine goals that night. ”
Mallet’s gritty style, combined with his high-end skill, has a lot of scouts comparing his game to the likes of current NHL players Tomas Holmstrom and Vancouver’s own Alex Burrows, something Boucher agreed with.
“I think Burrows is a pretty good comparison,” said Boucher. “He was a late bloomer and I am not sure to many people saw that coming when he played junior, same thing can be said with Mallet. Like Mallet, Burrows is one of those guys that isn’t afraid of anything, I played against him for a few years when he was younger and we all hated playing against him, but we could tell he was a good player, but I am not sure to many guys thought he would be a first-line dominant player like he is now. ”
Mallet had 27 fighting majors the last three seasons, but at the NHL level knowing when the right time to drop your gloves is important. That's something Boucher said Mallet can improve on and learn from the older guys at the pro level.
“It’s not like the old days where your coach taps you on the shoulder. Alex is not afraid whatsoever to defend a teammate, but there is a time and place. I played with some of the best – Ian Laperriere was unbelievable – if Alex could play with someone like Laperriere at some point in his career to help him through the things like when to do it and how to do it, it would be a big asset to him, and he is one tough customer that is for sure.”
Now that the Canucks have their 57th overall pick signed to a contract, they must decide where the ideal place for him will be to continue his development next season. He still has another season of junior eligibility left – his overage season – but is also eligible to play for the Canucks AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. As much as Boucher would love to see him back in Rimouski for one more season, he thinks Mallet is ready to take the next step and start his pro career.
“Sad to say, but yes, I think he is ready, his skating is there, his physical ability is there, and he trains hard. There are a few things that he improved on playing for coach Beausoleil, that if he came back to junior he could still improve on, but I think he is capable of playing in the AHL.”
Off the ice, Boucher described Mallet as a quiet young man that hasn’t let the new fame affect who he is.
“He is a pretty quiet guy honestly; everybody loved him on the team. Just loves to play the game, great kid, he is from around the area here in Rimouski and for probably the first time there was some attention around him this season with the possibility of being drafted and that didn’t change him one bit.
“I saw him at the draft and had dinner with him and he was the same kid as before. He just loves the game and is a good person, it’s always a good story when you can point to a guy like him and say ‘hey look, it’s never over, don’t quit, keep working hard and good things can happen’.”
Mallet was impressive at Prospects Development Camp in early July, showing his willingness to drive the net hard and go to the dirty areas on the ice. If he can show more of the same during main camp in September, the decision will be easy for the Canucks and Mallet will be AHL bound.