By Payton Hagans
Sam Malinski, a 25-year-old defenseman, is swiftly making his mark in professional ice hockey. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Colorado Avalanche in 2022 and has since made his AHL debut with the Colorado Eagles. Malinski is a versatile defenseman recognized for his quick skating, puck-moving skills, and two-way play. He's also a physically strong player who isn't hesitant to get in front of the net and block shots. Malinski is a native of Lakeville, Minnesota, and attended Cornell University during his collegiate hockey career. He stood out for the Big Red, earning All-American honors in his final year. In addition to his on-ice skills, Malinski is a great person off the ice, known for being a hard worker and a dedicated teammate.
Bouncing Back from Adversity
The COVID-19 epidemic derailed Sam's 2020-2021 campaign at Cornell University. When asked how he recovered from that setback, Sam underlined the necessity of keeping an optimistic mindset, saying, “I just kind of had to maintain a positive attitude and take that off-season as a time to work on the things that I don't normally get to work on in season.” He used the off-season to improve on parts of his game that he didn't have time to work on during the season, such as strength training, weight growth, and polishing his shooting and skating skills. While this setback might have seemed significant, the off time to grow might be a defining factor of Malinski’s game today.
The Role of a Defenseman
Sam fully embraces his role as a capable two-way defender. He focuses on moving the puck up the ice quickly and efficiently while excelling on defense. This includes maintaining tight gaps, caring for the puck in the defensive zone, and managing the rush. Sam also likes to contribute offensively by jumping into the play and impacting the offensive zone. Sam emphasizes the value of close-knit teams when discussing the importance of chemistry and communication among players on the ice. He believes that the best teams are often the most closely knit and that the more time spent together, the stronger the chemistry becomes. Developing camaraderie and understanding among teammates leads to better performance on the ice. When asked about his relationship with his Eagles teammates, Sam wants fans to know, “We're very close, having fun in the locker room, games, and practices. It's a job for us, but it really doesn't feel like one. We're all friends here and have a good time at the rink.”
Off the Ice
Sam's family has played a pivotal role in his hockey journey. He expresses extreme gratitude to his parents, “I wouldn't be here without them. Their dedication to getting me to the rink and helping me become the player I am is something I'm very grateful for." Throughout his career, his brothers have also been incredibly supportive, with his eldest brother as a source of motivation during high school and his younger brother competing for the University of Vermont today. Sam is incredibly close with his family and ensures that he establishes their importance in his career. He is also a big fan of the Minnesota Wild, his hometown team. He enjoys playing golf and fishing, and he is a dog lover with a golden retriever named Charlie. He is also a big fan of The Shawshank Redemption. Although he roots for his hometown teams, he wants fans to know that he loves being in Colorado, “I am very happy I signed here and with my decision. It’s been a very special time.”
When asked about his most memorable moment in the AHL thus far, Sam thought about the significance of his debut, “I wasn't entirely sure I was going to be able to play professionally, especially after that COVID year. I wasn't sure it was going to happen. So being able to play my first game in the American League was a big moment.” He also emphasized the intensity and excitement of playoff games, having direct experience with the increased pace and ferocity of postseason hockey. He feels that playing at a higher level was a way of testing his abilities on the ice, a test he indeed passed in the eyes of hockey fans. Sam's ultimate goal, like many other aspiring hockey players, is to make it to the NHL. He takes a day-by-day approach, focusing on the finer points of the game to improve and get closer to his goal. Sam recognizes the significance of ongoing growth and development, both within the AHL and beyond.
Sam Malinski is poised to make a significant impact in the AHL thanks to his impressive skill set, dedication, and positive attitude. His rise from undrafted free agent to rising star is a testament to his tenacity and unwavering dedication to excellence. Malinski has the potential to become a cornerstone defenseman for the Colorado Eagles and a league force as he continues to hone his craft and gain experience. Hockey fans will undoubtedly hear Sam Malinski's name for many years to come.