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Lightning select overage goaltender Nick Malik in the 5th round

Is he potentially a Syracuse back-up?

Sweden v Czech Republic: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Lightning have made their fifth-round pick, 160th overall. With that selection, they’ve taken goaltender Nick Malik. The Lightning once again have gone to the overage well, selecting this twenty-year-old goaltender. He weights in at 174 pounds a 6’2”.

Malik has NHL heritage with a connection to the Lightning. His father Marek played 691 games in the NHL as a defenseman, recording 33 goals and 168 points. Marek’s final season in the NHL was played with the Lightning in 2008-09, when he played in 42 games with Steven Stamkos as a rookie. Nick Malik was born in Raleigh, NC during the time in which his father was playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, meaning he holds dual US and Czechia citizenship.

Malik came up through the Czechia junior system and played for Czechia in two U17 tournaments and two U20 World Junior Championships. Malik has played 16 games in North America with the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL in 2019-20, but spent the rest of the year playing in the Czechia pro leagues in his draft year. He went undrafted in 2020 and 2021.

For this past season, Malik went to Finland and played for KooKoo in Liiga, the Finnish top men’s professional league. In 34 games, he posted a 15-9-9 record with a 1.97 GAA and .922 SV% and four shutouts. He followed that with 14 games in the playoffs where he posted a 2.14 GAA, .926 SV%, and two shutouts with a 7-7 record.

This is an off the board pick with only McKeen’s Hockey and Recruit Scouting even ranking him for this draft. It’s not the first time that the Lightning have gone off the board for a goaltender playing in Scandinavia, having picked Magnus Chrona as an off the board pick in the fifth round of 2018.

With Malik, the Lightning could try to get him over to the AHL and the Syracuse Crunch right away. He is under contract with KooKoo for the 2022-23 season, but because of the IIHF transfer agreements, the Lightning can pay a fee to get him out of the contract and bring him over right away. If the Lightning do, then Malik can serve immediately as the back-up, or 1B, to Hugo Alnefelt for the Crunch. Amir Miftakhov should have been in that spot this season, but he wanted to return to Russia and the Lightning mutually terminated his contract this offseason to allow him to do so.

Because of him being off the board, there’s not much information out there on Malik. We’ll have to hope that the Lightning scouts in Finland know what they were looking at, and his stats as a 19 year old in a men’s league are pretty impressive. Hopefully he can translate that to the smaller ice and develop well. Hopefully at a minimum, he can serve as a back-up and eventual third goaltender in the organization with Hugo Alnefelt ahead of him on the depth chart aiming to take the back-up goaltender role in Tampa. At best, he surpasses Alnefelt and takes that back-up position for himself.