Usually, you can argue that numbers don’t lie; but in the paper that I am about to unfold, they happen to do just that. Nick Malik, the Soo Greyhounds most recent and last addition to the lineup up 2019/2020 has been between the pipes for the boys in red and white on no less than 7 contests. The saviour that is highly touted by European and North American scouts is off to a 2-5 record. His goals-against average is a mediocre 3.41 and his save percentage is tarnished @ .894, BUT.
Did Kyle Raftis make an oopsie? Is the Czech Republic native overrated? Absolutely not in both cases, and here is why.
There are many factors involved in my reasoning. Let’s start with the fact that the honest truth is that the Hounds backend plays and run and gun style which leaves for more than a few odd-man rushes. 2 on 1’s or 3 on 2’s …it’s not an easy spot to be if you are a goalie. The Greyhounds are also one of the most penalized teams in the league and thus you have many 5 on 4’s that can last up to two minutes. All of the aforementioned are strikes against the Hounds and the last man to defend is the goaltender.
Let’s turn things around; I refer to the above only in a light tone. The fact is that Nick has let in 23 goals and although I haven’t seen everyone; I can tell you that the ones I did witness were probably unsavable with 99.99 percent of the best goalies out there.
Now, if you have not seen Nick play yet, I will fill you in on his play and style. Nick has made every save that a goaltender is supposed to. Nick has not let in a bad goal to my knowledge. His concentration is as superior as I have seen in a Hound goaltender in many many years. Malik has made dozens and dozens of eyeopening and gasping saves that in my humble opinion, would have made it behind most goaltenders pro on not. His awareness and anticipation are also aspects of his game that with a tighter and older D next year, will not only lower his GAA, but it will also get him drafted into the NHL.
In front of the goal, the Czech native is aggressive; he will fight and move players in front of him to get a good look at the puck that may come his way and not passively try and react at the last second. Nick is very focused and is also smart handling the puck for his teammates. On more than a few occasions, Nick will leave his crease to race to a puck to interrupt the programmed flow of the dump in, etc. Poke checking, and rebound control are also notches on his resume as one of the finest developing goaltenders in the junior ranks.
Let us not forget one more very very very important thing. This goaltender has only been in North America for about a month and has had to adjust to a quicker game. Remember that the ice surface he is used to playing on is much bigger as per Olympic and European measurements, thus the game is faster.
If you take all of this into consideration, you will no doubt come to the same conclusion that I have. We have a future NHL goaltender in our system and I have a very very good suspicion that Kyle Dubas will be keeping an eye on him. Sure, it could be said that I am jumping the gun, but I have witnessed him in action and he has.
On another note; I have to mention that the huge billboard of Nick on Bay street is a little unsettling. I agree obviously with what I wrote, but what kind of message does this send the other kids? Is every European going to get a billboard when they get their passports from here on in? What is this saying to the other players who have been fighting all year with this club? These puppies (signs) are not cheap; I know.
On another topic; some fans have mentioned their disdain in the fact that # 31 has started about 80 per cent of the games since his arrival and feel Bailey Brkin is getting the shaft. I understand why some would feel that way but hockey is also a business and when you lure one of the best players across the world, there is an unwritten rule in most cases that that player will play and not sit.
Bailey is a seasoned mature young adult and understands this; I can see it in his interaction with Nick. At the end of the day; there was a huge stretch of games in the teens, that Bailey played and Ethan Taylor sat. This is not different.
Coming up the Hounds play three at home (Kitchener-Wed, Guelph-Fri, Niagara-Sat) and I anticipate Nick to start at the very least on two of those occasions.
The Hounds are scrapping for a playoff spot and it is crunch time; Go Hounds Go !!!!