Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin has just made some very interesting comments.
The Penguins star forward has been arguably the very best offensive player in through the early stages of the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season, averaging an absurd 2.00 points per game after 9 games played. Now while there's no question that Malkin himself has been outstanding, no player is putting up that kind of production without the help of his teammates, and on Monday Malking was quick to heap praise on one of his teammates in particular.
According to Penguins insider Josh Yohe Malkin stated on Monday that his good play is all about Phil, referring of course to teammate Phil Kessel.
"He’s flying right now," said Malkin.
This is particularly noteworthy because of the issues that Kessel was reportedly having with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan during the 2017 - 2018 NHL regular season, issues that were so severe we heard speculation that they could result in Phil being traded. The issues stemmed from the fact that Kessel felt he should be paired with Malkin on one of the team's top lines, something that Sullivan obviously disagreed with at the time. Phil remained a Penguin however and his recent success alongside Evgeni Malkin will almost assuredly result in him remaining there, at least if he doesn't fall into some of the traps that have reportedly plagued him throughout his career.
Malkin seemed to acknowledge while heaping his praise on Kessel and even seemed to call out his teammate, perhaps in an effort to keep him motivated and on the right track.
”When he’s lazy, I can’t do myself," said Malkin.
Together the two men have been two of the top point producers this season with Kessel averaging 1.56 points per game, good enough for 6th best in the entire National Hockey League, so it's not hard to see why it would be in Malkin's interest to light a fire under Kessel. With that in mind I also have to wonder whether or not that may have been what head coach Mike Sullivan was attempting to do when he split up Kessel and Malkin last season.
Only time will tell if Kessel answers the challenge.