Washington Capitals prospect Beck Malenstyn reported to the Capitals AHL affiliate in Hershey for the first time last September. It wasn’t long before his aggressive style and physical play began garnering praise from Bears fans and the Bears coaching staff alike. NoVa Caps’ Zac Herr recently had a chance to speak with Malenstyn after the Bears’ second victory of the season on Sunday night.
This week the Bears embark on their longest road trip of the season, during which they will visit Canada to play the Toronto Marlies, Belleville Senators and Laval Rocket, before returning to the States for a tilt in New York with the Rochester Americans. When asked about how the team feels going into the longest road trip of the year, Malenstyn replied that he and the team are looking forward to it.
“I think we put ourselves in a good situation going into this one. I think all the Canadian kids are excited to go back home for a little bit. These two divisional games are huge for us to get rollin’, I think we are really starting to click as a group, so were looking forward to getting after it.”
A standout for the Bears so far this season has been their impressive penalty kill (PK), which has allowed just one power play goal (92.9%, 4th best in the AHL) heading into their trip to Canada and New York. Malenstyn, a key component of the Hershey PK, has been known for his elite shot blocking, but has also provided shorthanded scoring. He stepped up this past weekend with a goal and an assist during his time on the penalty kill.
Malenstyn’s first goal of the 2019-20 season came against the Phantoms on Saturday night. The shorthanded tally was key to the Bears first win of the season, and a good one to cross off the list early in the 2019-2020 campaign. Malenstyn noted that it feels “great to get it out of the way early.”
The next night Malenstyn assisted on Martin Fehervary’s first goal of his AHL career, which also happened on a penalty kill.
Last year the Bears had just three shorthanded goals all season (one by Malenstyn) but already have two “shorties” in just four games played so far this season, which is tied for most in the AHL. When asked about the success of the penalty kill and the ability to create chances, the 21-year old said a lot of it boils down to the level of aggressiveness.
“I think right from the start of camp we had a focus on our penalty kill. We ended off on a really good note last year. We brought in the guys we wanted to kill, and we were given a task and I think it’s worked really well for us. We’re sticking to that aggressive mindset; we’re creating turnovers and like you saw its starting to create some offense for us which is always great. So, the Penalty kill is clicking in the right direction, we’re happy with it.”
Similar to his penalty killing mentality, the 6’2″ left winger is an aggressive player that’s strong along the boards, and in battles for the puck. Last season Hershey Head Coach Spencer Carbery would even compare the 2016 fifth-round draft pick’s style of play to that of the Capitals’ Tom Wilson.
For Malenstyn, however, it was a question of whether he was going to keep that strong playing style or if he would need to make adjustments in a similar fashion to Wilson, who has adapted his playing style to include a more offensive mindset.
“I think for me, that’s the base of my identity. It may not be the prettiest plays in the world, but getting the puck off the wall, getting right out of the zone, being good on the penalty kill. You know, get on the forecheck, physical. Then from there, I need to develop the offensive side of my game. How can I use that platform to then create offense, create opportunities? I just need to grow that way. Not change the way I play, just develop the way I play and creating more and more as a player.”
For Malenstyn, not much about his style will change. There will be no major adjustments for the key parts of his game, but he will be looking to develop into more of an offensive player, similar to the way the Capitals saw Wilson grow into a top-line winger.
When talking about specific improvements to his game, the young forward’s main goal is about mentality as he looks to adopt a more shoot-first mentality, instead of missing high-danger opportunities.
“I’m not looking too much towards the points side of everything. I really want to look towards a shoot-first mentality. I think there are situations where I pass it up occasionally, where putting the puck towards the net will create opportunities for myself and my teammates. I think that’s the biggest one, having that shoot first mindset. Then just continuing making those plays coming out of the walls, coming out of the corners, a focus for me.”
Before letting Beck depart, I had to get the most important update of all – how was his Golden Retriever puppy, Wrigley, doing.
“He’s doing well. He’s adjusting well to all the traveling, growing every day. So yeah he’s doing well!”
By Zac Herr