Malenkykh On the Move - 24-Feb-04
Written by: Jesse Marshall
The Togliatti Lada Russian Superleague club has it's fair share of great Defensemen.
Maxim Semenov and Maksim Kondrat'ev are just two names that dot this supurb core of defenders. Some argue that this Lada defense is the best defense in modern hockey history, outshadowing the great defense the New Jersey Devils had that took them to the playoffs and subsequently, Stanley Cups last year and years before. Great goaltending from Jiri Trvai and Jean Francois-Labbe make Lada's games exciting to watch, and can drive opposing teams, fans and players alike, up a wall.
Great news for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why, you ask?
There is one name that has been slowly creeping up the depth charts in the last two weeks. Penguins 7th round Pick in the 1999 entry draft, Vladimir Malenkykh.
Since his first showing in 1998 at the age of 18, Malenkykh has been nothing short of an on/off Superleague player. He saw most of his action in 2001-2002 when he played 47 games with the Togliatti club, recording nine points and 88 penalty minutes, his solid play nearly guaranteed him a spot on the roster this year.
Now, he has become a staple player in Superleague, touted as being on of the hardest hitting defensemen in the country.
Last week, Lada continued it's streak of completely shutting down it's opponents, recording two shutouts in three games. Malenkykh worked his way up the Lada defensive depth chart, reaching a point as high as 3rd overall, out of 8 defensemen.
3rd out of 8 when youre only 23, on the best defense in all of Superleague isn't so bad.
Malenkykh has been playing like a man posessed since he was chosen to make Russia's Sweden Eurotour roster, a suprise name on a the list. He played along side Superleague greats such as, Oleg Teverdovsky, Teammate Maksim Kondrat'ev, Superleague leading scorer Aleksandr Prokop'ev, and Sergi Krivokrasov.
Since Eurotour, Malenkykh has been nothing short of flawless. His skating is improving, while his hands have yet to catch up. His slapshot is becoming more accurate, and as a result he has seen limited time on the powerplay's second unit. His presence in front of the net and in the corners has been great. He has been delievering punishing blows and his physical play has become a well known factor throughout the league.
Sounds like the type of guy the Penguins might need. A big solid defenseman who will clear the front of the net out, make players afraid to come into his territory, and can make a decent outlet pass along the boards.
The Championship to Superleague this year appears to stop in Togliatti this year, just like Malenkykh appears to be a complete shoe in for the Pittsburgh roster.
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