by Binghamton Devils Media | AHL On The Beat
New Jersey Devils fans got an early glimpse of what Mikhail Maltsev can do during the preseason at Madison Square Garden — splitting the defensemen, falling to his knees, and pulling off “The Forsberg” on New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
Using his big size, speed and smooth puck movement on the ice, Maltsev has begun to make a huge impact on the Binghamton Devils. The club entered the weekend having won 11 of its last 15 games, and during that stretch, Maltsev has collected eight of his 11 total points, as well as two shootout winners for the Devils.
But not everything has gone so smoothly for the 6-foot-3, 221-pound forward. In his first 14 games of the season, Maltsev had just three points and missed 10 games due to injury in mid-October — a slower start than he would have liked.
“There’s the ability to play with the pace and then there’s the training of playing with that pace at a consistent level,” said Binghamton head coach Mark Dennehy. “There were good signs early on that he was more than capable of playing at this pace. Now it’s just training, muscle memory and spatial awareness to consistently play at this pace.”
The St. Petersburg, Russia, native was selected by New Jersey in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, a night that was a blur for Maltsev.
“I don’t remember much, honestly, but I was young, and it was serious step. It was great feeling,” remarked Maltsev.
“He came here as advertised,” voiced Dennehy. “Strong on the puck, goes to the right areas, tough to get the puck from. Very skilled player, reads plays well, and plays with a heavy stick.”
Prior to signing with the Devils in 2019, Maltsev suited up for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. In 31 career games, the centerman tallied one goal and six assists, seven penalty minutes and a plus-4 rating. The move to a North American-sized rink can take a while to get used to for those accustomed to European-size sheets of ice.
For Maltsev, it’s not the only adjustment he had to make in his shift to hockey life in North America.
“I really missed home [when I first got here]. I don’t have my parents or any of my friends here. It was hard early on,” said Maltsev.
Fortunately, Maltsev has been quick to make new companions in the locker room that have been through similar trials and can offer helpful advice regarding the transition. Egor Sharangovich and Marian Studenic are both in their second seasons with Binghamton, after signing to play for New Jersey from Belarus and Slovakia, respectively. The two have made the adjustment a little easier for Maltsev.
All while facing adversity, Maltsev has proven himself an important player on the team. With 11 points (seven goals and four assists) in 29 games for Binghamton, Maltsev asserts that his focus on good puck movement to create scoring chances for his teammates has made all the difference.
“I’m [working on] improving shooting and scoring more goal,” said Maltsev. “The play very fast here, so I want to work on skating and stick handling.”
And that preseason goal against Georgiev? Maltsev pulled off that same move twice in back-to-back shootouts to claim victories over Syracuse and Rochester. With those moves in his bag of tricks, he has caught the eye of many on the team and beyond.
“He’s so big and strong that even when he’s under pressure, he can fend people off,” said Dennehy. “There were early plays where he had to put it into another gear, and he’s got it.”