When analyzing and comparing the best players in the league, it’s often the case that some players will get more attention while others will not get the full recognition they deserve. Although he has now gotten more into the media spotlight with his exceptional play, I think Evgeni Malkin doesn’t get all of the recognition that he deserves.
Drafted 2nd overall in 2004, Evgeni Malkin played two seasons in the KHL before making his NHL debut for the Penguins in the 2006-07 season. Malkin walked away as Rookie of the Year winning the Calder Memorial Trophy after scoring 33 goals and 85 points in 78 games played and gathering 4 assists in 5 playoff games. Although some players never live up to their rookie season again, Malkin has remained, if not improved year after year in his career and is arguably one of the more underrated players in the league currently.
Although not underrated statistically, I believe that Malkin may not receive the full recognition he deserves because he plays with Sidney Crosby. Nothing against Malkin, but it can be challenging trying to gain the spotlight when you’re playing with arguably the best player in the game today. Crosby has been the face of the Penguins since entering the league in 2005-06 and that hasn’t changed much over his 13 year career. However, Malkin has thrived in the number two role and it has been integral in the Penguins’ success.
Since entering the league in the mid 2000s, Crosby and Malkin have become the most decorated Pittsburgh Penguins’ players outside of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. In his 772 games played in the NHL (all with Pittsburgh) Malkin has found himself in the top four of a lot Penguins’ franchise records including games played (4th), goals (4th), assists (4th) and points (4th). Not only is it impressive that he sits in such high standing with the Penguins organization, but his statistical numbers are incredible for someone playing in today’s game. At 31 years old, Malkin has already tallied 367 goals and 919 points including a 50 goal campaign and three seasons where he eclipsed the 100 point mark. Although always being an offensive powerhouse, Malkin hasn’t had a season over 80 points since the 2011-12 season, but is on pace to break that streak this season. Malkin leads the Penguins in scoring, but he’s second in overall league scoring behind only Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (91pts) with 39 goals and 87 points in 66 games. At the pace Malkin is on he’ll have his highest goal totals in 6 years and will eclipse the 100 point mark for the 4th time in his career.
Despite Malkin’s point totals, one stat that points to Malkin being an incredibly special player is points per game. Currently there is only one player in the league actively playing that has a higher points per game total, Sidney Crosby. Still going strong in his 12th NHL season Malkin sits 2nd on the active points per game list averaging 1.190 points per game along with .475 goals per game. For reference there’s only one other player besides Crosby and Malkin with a 1.100 points per game and that’s Alexander Ovechkin. To be able to consistently produce at that level in the NHL year after year is incredible and it’s something that Malkin will likely be able to do for the majority, if not the rest of his career.
Along with his statistical achievements, Malkin is also very decorated when it comes to hardware. Not only has Malkin won the Stanley Cup 3 times (2009, 2016, 2017), but he has won the Calder Memorial Trophy, Art Ross Trophy twice, Conn Smythe Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Hart Memorial Trophy all in his 12 years of playing in the NHL. Also, Malkin is making a push for both the Hart Memorial Trophy and Art Ross Trophy as he has climbed the league standings in points since turning the calendar to 2018. Malkin has found success internationally medaling quite frequently gathering two gold, two silver and two bronze World Championship medals and just needs an Olympic gold medal to join the Triple Gold Club.
At just 31 years old Malkin certainly has quite a bit of hockey to be played in his career and it wouldn’t surprise me if one day he not only has his number retired for the Penguins, but gets his spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame as well. It’s time to recognize Evgeni Malkin as the elite hockey player that he is.