New Jersey Devils Sign Goalie Prospect Jakub Malek After Fantastic Season

Czech goaltender Jakub Malek has been signed to a two-year, entry level contract with the New Jersey Devils. What does this mean for the prospect?
Czechia v Canada: Preliminary Round Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
Czechia v Canada: Preliminary Round Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils announced they signed goalie Jakub Malek to a two-year, entry-level contract beginning in 2024-25. The goalie prospect now leads to a crowded goalie room.

The 22-year-old was the Devils' 2021 fourth-round NHL Draft pick, coming in at 100th overall. At 6-foot-4, Malek has already garnered plenty of attention with his size, but his overall frame appears much larger than in the net. The 190-lb goaltender wrapped up his second season with Ilves of Liiga, the Finnish Elite League. There, we saw great numbers from him. Malek had a 16-4-5 record and a .915 save percentage with two shutouts. This past season, he outperformed their starting goalie, Jonas Gunnarsson. 

In his rookie year with Ilves, Malek appeared in 22 games and had a 9-7-4 record. That season, he had a .903 save percentage and two shutouts. Before Ilves, Malek had spent his career in his home country of Czechia. He played for VHK Vsetin in the Czechia2 league before moving to Finland. His exceptional goaltending led him to win awards with Czechia2, including Best Goaltender and Best Junior, and being named a member of their All-Star Team. 

Malek proved himself to be a composed player, very conscious and strategic with his play. He is able to control rebounds, make saves, and stand his ground. 

The Devils’ goalie struggles were prominent this season, and a long-term solution is not set in stone yet. Currently, there is a crowded group of goaltenders in the Devils organization. Nico Daws, Tyler Brennan, Kaapo Kahkonen, Jake Allen, Akira Schmid, Issac Poulter, and now Jakub Malek are all part of this goalie jam. 

Jake Allen will likely become a backup on the Devils roster to a goalie they hope to acquire this summer. This still leaves Brennan, Daws, Poulter, and Schmid under NHL contracts at minor-league levels. Trading Daws or Schmid would likely leave Malek, Brennan, or Poulter as the number one in Utica.

There's also the possibility that Malek could spend next season in Finland despite his new deal. As Ben Birnell of the Utica Sentinel reports, Malek has another year on his contract with Liiga. It looks like he could return there to be the full-time starter.

These decisions will be tough but must be made this offseason. Fitzgerald wants to acquire a new goaltender, without a doubt but will have to juggle the goaltenders remaining between the six or seven spots between New Jersey, Utica, and Adirondack. That's why Finland might be the smartest option for Malek next season.

The next time we will see Malek take the ice will likely be at this summer's development camp, where he can hopefully show some skill to take into consideration. If Malek continues to play as he does, the Devils may have found their future #1A goalie.