The story is well known among Ranger fans,
a kid chosen in the first round is branded by the GM as savior and by the
coach as a role-player. And so have gone the fortunes of one Manny
Malhotra as he arrived at one of the worst times in the Rangers recent
It was back in 1996 when the center made
his debut in juniors. Joining the Guelph Storm, he lead all players
with 44 points adding another 14 in only 18 playoff games. That same
season he played in the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and was named MVP
of the tournament.
times with the Canadian Junior team
The following year he once again impressed
in a junior tournament, as he captained the Canadian Under-18 squad to the
Gold Medal, a performance that helped him attain a #6 CSB ranking.
Following such a successful start to his
junior career, Manny was made the number seven pick of the 1998 NHL Entry
Draft, selected by Neil Smith and the New York Rangers. At the time,
Malhotra was considered one of the most NHL ready players in the draft, a
view that was shared by the Rangers GM.
Prior to the beginning of the 1998-1999 NHL
season, Smith was already out promoting his latest draft pick already
proclaiming him as a future captain, before he'd played a single NHL
game. Lacking youth in the organization, Malhotra found himself
playing in the big leagues at the tender age of 18. It wasn't a
particularly successful season, until late in the year when he stepped in
to replace an injured Wayne Gretzky and looked like the #1 pick he was
Things were going well for Manny, but it
would not last for long. Going into the 1999-2000 season, Manny spent much
of his time on the 4th line. After 27 games without a single point
and a -6 plus/minus, Malhotra suffered the indignity of being sent back to
his minor league team.
When asked about the young center, coach
John Muckler belittled the expectations and stated "he'd be nothing
more than a third line center". Although he tried to defend his
comment later, the damage was already done.
The Rangers were rupturing with a growing
divide evident between the GM and coach, which eventually would cost both
of them their jobs.
So dawned the Glen Sather age, and a chance
for everyone to start afresh. The young man from Mississauga would
be given another chance, though once again the Rangers failed him.
Going into camp as a Center, Malhotra was told towards the end of the
pre-season that he would need to make the switch to left wing and that he
would learn the position while playing in Hartford. Frustration was
evident, as Manny questioned the Rangers brass for the first time
Though he would spend time down in
Hartford, he eventually would return to the Rangers, initially as the
fourth line center (where he languished for a time once again), but
finally to the left wing of one of the greatest centers of all time in
Mark Messier. It was here that it appeared, that Malhotra was
beginning to get back on track.
An independent observer might look at Manny
today, and see a young 20 year old, who still plays a little
tentatively. A kid who is intelligent, well-meaning and
enthusiastic, but has lacked the care and guidance to allow him to bring
out his full ability. A pessimist might react and quote statistics
from his former years and demand how anyone could have thought this guy to
be a franchise a player, but in the end as always, only time will tell.
Going into this season, Manny has plenty to
prove. If he's given the opportunity, perhaps he can overcome his
developmental obstacles and turn into the player we as fans hoped.
Perhaps more than anyone, Malhotra will be judged by the success of the
team this year, his success in his career could well be tied to the
success of the team.
Good Luck Manny....