James Malatesta was another player who was close to heading for the NCAA route. His last season of minor hockey was marred by injury, but he had an electrifying playoff run and was projected to be a high pick in the upcoming QMJHL Draft.
Due to his intentions to play college hockey, though, Malatesta was drafted in the seventh round by the Quebec Remparts. His plan was to play hockey at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire for the upcoming season. However, Malatesta decided to forgo his NCAA eligibility and play for the Remparts.
Malatesta was part of a talented rookie class in the Q this season. He scored twice in his first Q game and racked up an astonishing nine goals in his first nine games of the season. After that, though, Malatesta went the next 15 games without scoring — including the entire month of November, though he did leave the team to represent Canada Black at the U-17s.
On a stacked Canada Black team that underwhelmed in regards to their tournament finish, Malatesta was a standout player. He racked up three goals and six assists in five games and shone on the team’s second line, and played his way onto the first line by the tournament’s end.
When December rolled around, Malatesta rediscovered his scoring touch. He scored in all but one game in the final month of 2019 and rode a seven game goal streak (eight goals) into 2020.
At the end of the shortened Q season, Malatesta finished seventh in points among rookies and tied for second in goals among rookies. He was a mainstay on the Remparts powerplay, recording seven goals and 12 points on the man-advantage.
Malatesta has an excellent shot paired with great vision, and is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice. He has no problems taking the puck to the slot or the top of the circle and ripping the puck past goalies, which makes him incredibly lethal on the man-advantage. Malatesta is a high-energy player, too. Though undersized, he doesn’t shy away from physical play and willingly goes to battle along the boards and in the corners.
Agile and quick, Malatesta is a threat when opponents give him space to generate speed on the rush. His powerful stride allows him to drive himself and pucks to the net in hopes of creating secondary scoring chances. When Malatesta gets moving, he is difficult to stop.
Though a confident possession player, Malatesta prefers to let his teammates find him with passes than make fancy plays himself. However, he has shown the remarkable ability to drive play in the Q this season and will no doubt become an effective playmaker as his major junior career continues.
The natural center was deployed at left wing in his first season of major junior, and will likely get more opportunities down the middle next season. We’ll see then what his abilities in the faceoff circle are like and whether he has the potential to play down the middle at higher levels.
Strengths: Shot, Work Ethic, Physicality
To Improve: Playmaking, Play At Center
Malatesta plays a North-South game and has a very good release on his shot. He is a powerful skater who is hard to stop in the open ice. He is not overly big, but he never shies away from contact and likes to deliver the body from time to time. His strong shot makes him a threat when he gets close to the slot and is why he is often used on the power play. [2019 Black Book]
What makes Malatesta so special is his ability to control the play while he’s on the ice. He is a player who thrives on possession, at times leaving the offensive zone with possession when being pinched out towards the blueline. This allows him to keep the puck on his, or his teammates, stick and re-enter the offensive zone for another crack at attacking the opposition. [Dobber Prospects]
James Malatesta (2021) is soooo clutch. Good puck tracking in the defensive zone. Gets himself wide open in the neutral zone and delivers a great pass to Cole Cormier (2020) in the slot. Cormier capitalizes. Two goal night for Cole. #2020NHLDraft @FCHockey pic.twitter.com/sqvwRtNwfR— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 12, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen, James Malatesta. Block in the offensive zone leads to him controlling the pace and skating the zone until he finds the perfect teammate to pass to. Keep your eye on Malatesta (2021 eligible). pic.twitter.com/8We3I7dkSK— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 10, 2020
Statistics from Elite Prospects and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.