Evgeni Malkin has won over hockey fans in Pittsburgh.
And, he’s gained quite a world-wide following as well.
Consider E.J. Hradek, a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, among them.
Malkin is one of five finalists for ESPN The Magazine’s NEXT cover athlete. And, Hradek would love to see No. 71 on the cover when the issue hits newsstands on Jan. 31.
“With the NEXT issue, we’re always looking for guys who are on the horizon who are going to be the next kind of big thing in their particular sport. We look at all the different sports as well as some of the individual-type games as well,” Hradek said. “We had Sidney Crosby in that role and you can go back and we’ve had Alex Ovechkin in that role back when he was 16. So, some guys we have in there when they’re younger or even younger when they’re in their junior hockey days. Then, some guys we catch up with maybe a little bit later like Evgeni. Clearly, the people in Pittsburgh have seen that he’s a terrific young player and we think he’s going to be an impact player in the game.”
Anyone can vote for Malkin as the cover athlete. Click HERE to cast your vote now because voting ends Wednesday. Malkin is the lone hockey player eligible to make the cover.
“I say all hockey fans go there and vote – it’d be great to have a hockey player on the cover,” Hradek said.
And, Hradek believes Malkin is one of the game’s brightest stars.
“I have seen Evgeni play for a couple years now. I saw him play for the Russian World Junior team for a couple of years. Obviously, we got to see a lot of him when he played during the Olympics for Team Russia last year,” he said. “I knew he was a good player and I knew he was the real deal from watching him at the World Junior tournaments. But, when you see him in the Olympic tournament where he’s playing against the very, very best from all the different countries on a very strong Russian team – and he was one of the top players on that team – I think that shows you right there what kind of player this kid is. He’s big and long and lean. One of the general managers, who saw him before he came into the league, compared him to a combination of a Jean Beliveau with that long reach and grace and a Peter Forsberg – that kind of competitive player. So, he is going to be terrific. The people in Pittsburgh – I don’t think it gets much better than having Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on your team because they are two of the top young players that have come around in a long, long time.”
Malkin continues to lead all NHL rookies in scoring with 41 points (20+21) through 38 games.