SUNRISE, Fla. - It took a quick trip to the minors for Denis Malgin's season to really take off.
After making the Florida Panthers roster out of training camp, the 21-year-old forward played sparingly before being reassigned to the team's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Mass. But after an injury to Evgenii Dadonov opened the door for his return, Malgin simply never looked back.
Having produced at over a point-per-game pace during his 14-game stint with the Thunderbirds, Malgin returned to the Panthers on Nov. 27 overflowing with confidence. In 51 games, the 5-foot-9, 177-pound forward posted new career highs in goals (11) and points (22).
"I think it helped me," Malgin said after being recalled in November. "I was just playing. I got my confidence back. I have good confidence right now. I will try to play here the same way."
A natural center, Malgin also proved he could play on the wing this season, saying "I know I can play both [positions]. It was good." Of the 624:12 of ice time he saw at 5-on-5, 339:25 of it came on Florida's second line, where he was centered by Vincent Trocheck.
In terms of possession, Malgin's 50.94 percent Corsi For rating at 5-on-5 ranked fourth among Panthers forwards with at least 20 games played this season.
"I think I had a good season," Malgin said after April's locker cleanout at BB&T Center. "It was better than last year. As a team, too, we had a pretty good season. We just missed the playoffs by one point."
Moving forward, Malgin hopes his strong sophomore season will lead to a full-time roster spot with the Panthers in 2018-19.
"I think I took a big step," Malgin said. "I was playing better and more confident."
There was a stretch this season where Malgin really showed off his potential.
From Jan. 25 through Feb. 18, he registered eight points in 10 games after being bumped up to the second line to play alongside Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau. Malgin's five goals during that span were tied with Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov for the most on the team.
"I always knew he was a good player," Huberdeau said of Malgin. "He's a small player, but he's not scared to go into the corner. He's a skilled player. He has good vision. I like playing with players like that. They find you and create some offensive chances."
Malgin posted the first two-goal performance of his career in Florida's 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Jan. 25 at BB&T Center.
After giving the Panthers an early 1-0 lead in the first period, the Swiss sniper lit the lamp once again in the second period, beating Braden Holtby on the doorstep to put Florida up 2-1 at 6:40.
For his efforts, Malgin, who said he would have preferred a win, was named second star. "Of course, I scored twice, but we lost, and that's not good," Malgin said after the loss. "I'm just playing and just having fun. We're trying to win as a team, but we just have to watch video and figure out a couple things."
Video: WSH@FLA: Malgin pots Huberdeau's heads-up feed in 2nd
GOAL OF THE YEAR
Malgin's first goal of the season was a big one.
In just his second game after what proved to be his final recall from Springfield, Malgin scored with 1:09 left to lift the Panthers to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers on Nov. 28 at Madison Square Garden.
"I think he went down and it was his fourth game in five days," Huberdeau told reporters after the game. "Then he comes up and scores the winning goal. That's pretty impressive."
Video: FLA@NYR: Malgin puts Panthers ahead late in the 3rd