Jared Bednar often knows very little about the players Colorado obtains in mid-season trades. It doesn’t concern him: As he puts it with a shrug, “I coach the players that they give me.”
Team executives will, however, ask the coach to review video from time to time before making a deal. That was the case with the Avalanche’s newest acquisition from the Maple Leafs.
“Occasionally they’ll say, ‘Hey, we want you to look at this guy and see if he’ll fit,’” Bednar said before Denis Malgin’s Avalanche debut Dec. 21. “I looked a little bit at Malgin. He’s a veteran guy. Can play center and wing. He’s got good skill. Has good pace to his game.”
The early returns on Malgin since that assessment have been promising. The Avs traded Dryden Hunt to Toronto for him in an exchange of bottom-six forwards. Take into account that they didn’t have to give up anyone or anything to add Hunt to the roster several weeks earlier — he was a waiver claim from New York — and adding Malgin seems like a steal.
His ice time alone indicates that he’s another feat of savvy string-pulling by the Avalanche front office. Malgin is averaging 16:22 through his first three games, whereas Hunt averaged 7:51 in his 25 games in Colorado, including 5:12 in the last four. Bednar appreciated Hunt’s consistent “low-event hockey,” but Malgin might bring more offensive upside. A player’s ice time is often an accurate reflection of Bednar’s satisfaction level with that player.
Especially in crunch time, when Colorado tends to lean heavily on top lines. Malgin has been a third-period presence in two close games. The Avs had been 0-8-0 when trailing at the second intermission this season; they rallied to win back-to-back games in that situation after he arrived.
“I liked the way he skated and moved the puck,” Bednar said after Malgin’s debut. “He looked like a confident player with the puck. He was making plays. … I thought he got better as the game went on.”
He has eight shots on goal and six hits in three games.
The added minutes are especially crucial as Colorado (19-12-2) limps through injury purgatory. Bottom-six forward Darren Helm continues to be a wild card, skating with the team but not returning to the lineup. Malgin filled in for veteran winger Andrew Cogliano on a line with Logan O’Connor and Ben Meyers while Cogliano was out.
“I thought (Malgin) was really, really good,” Mikko Rantanen said. “I thought he was skating well. He’s a really skilled guy, as we can see. Even at a small size, he can still win battles.”
Not bad for a guy whom most teammates didn’t actually see in action until his Avalanche debut. After the trade, Malgin’s immigration process took time, causing him to miss a practice. His first time on Denver ice was at an optional morning skate before a game. Very few players joined him. That morning, Bednar gave a condensed tutorial of what he usually shows players at training camp using five days’ worth of video.
“Some of it I did on dry-erase board,” Bednar said. “I showed him video clips and asked him what they were doing in Toronto. How different is it? Just kind of laid out the nuts and bolts of it, because I don’t want him to overthink. I want him to go play and be instinctual and use his skill.”