Connor McDavid scored the game-winner in overtime for the Edmonton Oilers against the Washington Capitals in Wednesday's nationally televised game, but his heroics would not have been possible were it not for the contributions of one Brad Malone. Yes, Brad Malone. You don't know Brad Malone? I guess you should have paid more attention to the 2014–15 Carolina Hurricanes! But no matter. This is the story of Brad Malone.
Brad Malone was drafted in the fourth round as a junior hockey player by the Colorado Avalanche in 2007 and played four years at North Dakota as a hard-hitting forward who could occasionally score, when he wasn't sitting in the penalty box. This continued into the AHL, where he's spent the large majority of his career since college. Malone notched just two assists in nine games for the Avs in his rookie year in 2011–12, then scored four goals across 45 games in his next two NHL seasons. From there, he traveled in free agency to Carolina, where in two seasons he scored nine times in 122 appearances. He also got into a ton of fights, most unfortunately this one against Jordin Tootoo.
After the Canes didn't re-sign him, Malone bounced around the Capitals' and Blues' minor-league systems until Edmonton picked him up in 2017. Across the next four years, he was a valuable contributor to the Bakersfield Condors but only saw 23 games worth of action at the NHL level, scoring in none of them. He eventually became just a Condor alone after his Oilers contract lapsed, earning team captain honors at the start of last year and settling into the role of mentor to prospects with higher ceilings and brighter futures. If that had been the end of the Brad Malone story, it's not so terrible a way to be a hockey lifer, when there are so few NHL jobs and so many people who want them.
But in February, Edmonton signed the 32-year-old again, and after 31 points in 35 games for the Condors this year, they called him up once more to the big-time, giving him his first NHL action since the final game of 2018–19.
Playing under 10 minutes in each of his first three games, Malone remained anonymous (though he at least managed to avoid any penalties). On Wednesday, however, he picked up his first point of this stint with an assist on a second-period Cody Ceci goal. And then after T.J. Oshie tied the game at two in the third, the fates conspired to make the fourth-line center the center of attention.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Oilers dumped the puck down behind the Washington net. A good forecheck on Caps defender Martin Fehervary allowed Evan Bouchard—one of the many Oilers youngsters who passed by Malone in Bakersfield—to intercept a clearance attempt at the blue line. Bouchard sent it back towards the net, where it took a deflection and hit the back wall. Zack Kassian picked up the puck and pushed it into the slot. Then Malone, who hadn't scored in the NHL since December 2015, lifted it up over the right shoulder of Ilya Samsonov to make it 3-2. Play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels's disbelieving call: "IT'S BRAD MALONE!"
Here's the slow-mo on that goal.
It looked so natural. Would anyone unaware of its context be able to tell that Malone is at best a fringe NHLer? Does this look like a career minor-leaguer's goal to you? In the same way that Oshie confidently finished his one-timer that sent it into overtime at the last second, and McDavid picked his spot in the two-on-one at the end, Malone knew how to finish when the puck got to his stick, in front of 16,000 fans who all went home happy. It's a reminder of how incredibly talented you have to be to even come close to sniffing NHL ice, and a radiant moment in a long career spent outside the spotlight.