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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25: #11 Sam Malinski

The highly touted college free agent might get a shot at an NHL job this season.

NCAA HOCKEY: MAR 25 Div I Championship Northeast Regional - Cornell v Boston University Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Five writers have ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 1, 2023, in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

A brief but impressive stint with the Colorado Eagles, including five assists in seven playoff games, has elevated expectations for former Cornell captain Sam Malinski in his first full season in the Colorado Avalanche organization. His smooth skating and consistent offensive production stood out on the Eagles’ hulking, defense first blue line, and helped him look the part of a future NHLer with power play quarterback upside.

But Colorado has also seen in the very recent past that highly touted college free agents often went undrafted for a reason, a truth proven over and over again throughout the league. So what is Sam Malinski’s truth? Is he a future second pair, PP2 quarterback for the Avs? Or is he an undersized defender who will get pushed around at the NHL level before settling in as a high end Eagle?

Most likely, somewhere in the middle - a capable right shot bottom pair defender who chips in points. Malinski should see some NHL ice this season, presumably the first blueline callup to fill in the third pair when injuries inevitably crop up, and when he does there’s a good chance he proves he belongs in the big leagues.

To seize that opportunity if/when it comes, Malinski will need to iron out his defensive zone reads and ensure he is not a liability is in his own end rather than focus on his point production. Jared Bednar notoriously keeps a short leash on prospects who don’t demonstrate defensive responsibility and reliability in their first NHL looks, so a strong showing in that regard in his first few games will be critical.

If any Avalanche defense prospect is capable of earning Bednar’s trust, however, it is Malinski — he was a stalwart defender and team captain in college, looked great for the Eagles last year, and simply has all the tools to make the right impression.

The Avs roster could really use another capable defender as currently constructed, and one with upside would be even better. Do you think Malinski can be that guy? Let us know in the comments below!

2023 Top 25 Under 25

#12 Jason Polin

#13 Ondrej Pavel

#14 Alex Beaucage

#15 Sampo Ranta

#16 Taylor Makar

#17 Jeremy Hanzel

#18 Trent Miner

#19 Colby Ambrosio

#20 Gianni Fairbrother

#21 Matt Stienburg

#22 Chris Romaine

#23 Maros Jedlicka

#24 Andrei Buyalsky

#25: Nikita Ishimnikov