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Monday, Nov. 12, 2018
Zack Malik will do his talking on the ice
by Randy Pascal

Zack Malik speaks slowly, carefully choosing his words.

One would expect nothing less from the Sudbury Wolves' 2017 Import Draft selection, sitting down to chat on just the fourth day since his arrival in Northern Ontario.

Despite being born in Raleigh (North Carolina) – Zack is the son of former NHL defenceman Marek Malik – the young blueliner, who celebrated his 17th birthday earlier this month, has spent the bulk of the past decade or so back home in the Czech Republic.

While his conversational comfort level might still be somewhere in the introductory range, his on-ice proficiency is substantially higher. In his element, the younger Malik displays a smooth lengthened stride beneath his 6’2” frame, almost like he was born to play hockey.

That can happen when you grow up immersed in a hockey family.

“It’s something special,” he noted of the experience of his youth. “I looked to my dad, always. It’s a help with the hockey, and to know how to deal with things. It’s good.”

That is encouraging news for Wolves fans, who were already dealing with the fact that Patrick Sanvido and Aiden Jamieson and, quite likely, Kyle Capobianco, would not be returning to man the Sudbury back-end, before news broke earlier this week that 2016 1st round pick Owen Lalonde was also no longer in the picture, shipped to the Guelph Storm for a bevy of picks.

GM Rob Papineau, however, was quick to note, at the time of the trade, that part of the rationale in parting ways with Lalonde was the comfort of knowing the additions that had been made to the Sudbury “D” corps, throughout the summer, including the selection of Malik with the 19th overall pick of the most recent draft of overseas talent.

In a sense, the teenager who caught the eyes of scouts most notably as a member of the Czech Republic team that competed at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste Marie last October/November, was meant to travel this path.

“It was always in my mind to be a defenceman,” he suggested. “Almost everybody is saying that my dad and me are really similar. Everybody is saying that I’m a better skater – my dad says the same thing,” Malik added with a smile.

“Our vision of the ice, our hockey sense is pretty similar. He was pretty smart with passing, and more physical, but that will come in a few years.” Marek Malik played 13 seasons of NHL hockey, just nine games short of the 700 plateau. His career included stops with the Hartford Whalers/Caroline Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite all of that mileage, he will forever be remembered by the hockey fanatics around the world for shootout goal that went viral in December of 2008. His son, we are sure, has heard the question a thousand times before.

“I can do my dad’s shootout move, too, but I have something of my own as well,” he said. Not surprisingly, the OHL rookie was unwilling to provide further details – nor did we expect him to.

Zack Malik began the 2016-2017 season with the HC Vitkovice U18 team, racking up four points in five games and earning a promotion to the U20 squad for the balance of the season, another 33 games in all. And while that door was still open for his return to the team, he and his family sensed it was time to move on.

“It was a hard decision,” he conceded. “We were thinking about it for months. We tried to look over what was better, what was worse, either here or in the Czech Republic. In Czech, I would probably play in the U20 league, and I played there last year, so it might be a step back. I think the OHL is the best for me.”

While the raw talent is evident, the rearguard who has been ranked at #50 in the early seedings of 2018 NHL Entry Draft level talent by “eliteprospects.com” knows that showing progress is an absolute must. “You always have to be better at everything, but I can definitely practice my shot and skating, and maybe put on some weight,” he said.

And as with most who make their way to Canada to pursue their hockey dreams, it’s in those non hockey related areas where Zack Malik is likely to encounter some of the biggest adjustments to his day to day life. “School will be harder,” he said. “It’s harder already, just when you play hockey, even more because I am doing it on line. I might take English lessons at the school here.”

“The people here are pretty different, they are much more friendly. I haven’t seen too much of Sudbury yet. I saw the rink, and I was in the supermarket for food – it’s not bad. I like the food here, I like the peanut butter a lot.”

Still, when he longs for the feel of the Czech Republic, don’t be too surprised if Malik turns to a tried and true recipe from his days back home, one that he is more than willing to share with his new teammates.

Svickova blends beef sirloin with dumplings and vegetable cream sauce. Though the newcomer to Sudbury could not yet recall the English translation for the various ingredients, he was quick to note just how tasty it was. As for a much deeper conversation, he would prefer to let his hockey do the talking – and Wolves fans will have no issue with that.

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