James Malatesta's 2022-23 season was filled with success and trophies. In his fourth season with the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, he posted 37-29--66 in 55 regular season games, and topped that performance off with 14-6--20 in 18 playoff games, winning the QMJHL Playoff MVP as the Remparts won the QMJHL. He wasn't done yet, though. In four games at the Memorial Cup, Malatesta scored five goals and was named Memorial Cup MVP, leading the Remparts to the title.
Malatesta, whom the Blue Jackets selected with the No. 133 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is eligible to play pro hockey for the first time this season. At development camp, he spoke about his successful season, playing with grit, and more.
Has all of the recent success you've had sunk in yet?
Malatesta: "Yeah. For sure at first, it was kind of overwhelming. Everything happened in the span (of) like two weeks. So we had a lot of time to soak it all in after and we're all very happy. We had a good amount of celebrations. I had family and friends at my house. So it's all very fun and now coming here, (I'm) moving on to the next chapter. So I'm looking forward to what the future has to hold here."
How validating have the honors been?
Malatesta: "Well, I think I always showed up in the big moments whenever it counted most and that's just my style of play. I like playing that gritty game, playoff style, (getting) my nose dirty. But at the same time, if you give me time and space I can make the opponent pay. So I like mixing it up and also finishing my checks and stuff. But, that's just my style of play and it's not going to change now that I'm playing older guys. I'm going to try and stick to that same style and not have too much respect out there for the other guys."
What was it like playing against fellow CBJ prospect Jordan Dumais this season and in the QMJHL final?
Malatesta: "(I've known) Jordan since I was younger. I played against him, but we didn't really know each other personally. But, starting last year and the year before we were training together in the gym and on the ice as well sometimes. So we've gotten closer and what he's doing, it's pretty incredible and it's no fluke he does it (in) back-to-back seasons [109 and 140 points, respectively]. He's (that) type of player. He puts up points, (he's a) goal scorer, (a) passer, just a dangerous guy. (If) you give him time and space, he'll make you pay. So, that was for sure something we said in the locker room before the finals. We had to take his time and space away and they had some other good players, so we just tried to limit their time and space because we know that they would be able to make us hurt."
Now you've got bragging rights over Dumais after beating him, right?
Malatesta: "I try to not talk about it too much. But, I mean, sometimes we'll have a good laugh over it and stuff."
Was it cool to play against Dumais in the QMJHL final?
Malatesta: "Yeah. I know a couple of guys on the other team, but especially [Dumais]. I mean, we both train at the same gym. So we said, "The gym is gonna have a champion no matter who wins." He missed the first two games but then he came back for the last four. He played very well. And it's always nice battling against guys you know, (it) just gives you that extra push and motivation to try and get that win over them."
Do you think Dumais will break his 140-point record from last season?
Malatesta: "Oh my god. He's gonna crush it. There's a lot of top-end guys a lot of (19 or 20-year-olds) that are going to be out of the league now. He's going to be the older guy (in) the league kind of. I think he'll absolutely crush it if he goes back there."
What was it like playing for Patrick Roy?
Malatesta: "It's pretty crazy. Like going in there at 16, I was a bit more timid (and) shy. But, over the years, we grew a great relationship and I always was trying to go ask him questions. He's a very approachable guy. (A) talkative, talkable guy. So, as a coach, he's great. As a person, he's great. So, overall, he's just a great guy. Every guy in the locker room wanted to go to war for him. And I think that's what you need as a coach."
What's your mindset when trying to get the puck back from the opposition?
Malatesta: "You just got to hit him. Get dirty, gritty, (and) give him a couple of cross-checks. Lift the sticks. It's a trick."
|James Malatesta stats (via hockeydb.com)||Regular Season||Playoffs|