This week we’re heading back to the QMJHL for an update on Blue Jacket prospect James Malatesta. James is playing with the Quebec Remparts and is off to a really strong pace as his team nears the halfway mark of their season.
Malatesta was taken by the Blue Jackets in the 5th round (#133 overall) at the 2021 Draft, and he was an immediate standout for the team at last year’s Traverse City Prospects tournament. He returned to junior and played in all 68 of Quebec’s games last season; scoring 28 goals and 25 assists for 53 points. He posted 49 penalty minutes and a whopping +25 rating in the regular season; then added 5 goals and 8 points in 12 playoff games.
This season, he’s been scoring goals at a torrid pace. Through 30 games, he has found the back of the net 23 times – tied for 5th in the league (one behind fellow Jackets prospect Jordan Dumais) – and added 13 assists for 36 points. His 40 minutes in penalties has him inside the top-20 in the league, and he’s doing it all while carrying a +19 rating.
Malatesta plays a scrappy, physical game on both sides of the puck. He’s a speedy player who flies around the ice, going head-long into physical battles and using his low frame to upend players and win puck battles. He works hard to create transition, and then has the skill to punish opponents, able to score goals in a variety of ways.
His feisty, productive play recently earned him an entry level deal with the Blue Jackets, a sign that he will likely turn pro once his QMJHL season is finished. This is the perfect player for the Cleveland Monsters to add for a playoff run – he’ll not only bring skill, but will also be fun to watch when the games matter most.
He’s the kind of player that can play any brand of hockey you want. Got a physical matchup? That’s probably his favorite style of game. High flying, skill-oriented game? He can score goals. Need someone to kill a penalty? Yeah, he can do that too. In fact, the lone knock I can really point out with Malatesta is that he’s small (just 5’9″, 190 pounds).
His size leads to concerns about him holding up physically at the pro level; but even with his rough and tumble style of play, he’s remained remarkably healthy in the QMJHL so far. He still needs development in some of the finer details of his game, so for that reason he’s not likely to contend for an NHL job next fall.
But, he’s not too far off, and he looks every bit the part of a secondary scoring winger who can play in all facets of the game, against any competition. He’ll drive them nuts, get under their skin, and then take advantage of them when they make a mistake. Whether he becomes a Matt Calvert type player, or something more (I won’t dare compare him to Brad Marchand), he’s almost surely going to be an NHL player in some capacity. A strong pick in the back half of the draft.