One of the elite two-way forwards of his generation, Malhotra starred in the NHL for 16 seasons where he played in 1,026 games. He was among the best in NHL history at faceoffs, with the fourth-highest career faceoff winning percentage (58.85%) ever.
A second-generation Punjabi-Canadian, Malhotra played minor hockey in Mississauga, ON before being drafted by the Guelph Storm 17th overall in the 1996 OHL Draft. Malhotra was a responsible two-way centreman even in major junior and played a shutdown role while leading the Storm as its captain to an OHL championship in 1998. He also won the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL’s scholastic player of the year and was named the most sportsmanlike player of the 1998 Memorial Cup, where the Storm finished second.
Malhotra was drafted by the New York Rangers 7th overall in the 1998 NHL Draft, and was a full-time NHLer as an 18-year-old, becoming the second player of Indian descent to play in the NHL after Robin Bawa. He won a Calder Cup in 2000 as a member of the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, and captained Team Canada to a bronze medal at the 2000 IIHF World Juniors.
Traded to the Dallas Stars midway through the 2001-02 season, Malhotra represented Canada’s senior team for the first time at the 2002 World Championships. At this point in his career, he was a smart defensive forward but unable to meet the offensive production his high draft pick status warranted. Stuck between press box purgatory and the fourth line, he was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2003-04 season, where he would post career highs with 12 goals and 25 points in 56 games.
As the Blue Jackets’ shutdown pivot, Malhotra spent most of the next 4 years in Columbus centering the third line, although his versatility helped him perform admirably in the top six as well. He had a career-high 35 points in 77 games during the 2008-09 season.
An unrestricted free agent in 2009, Malhotra was one of the best checkers in hockey when he signed with the San Jose Sharks. Centering their third line, he helped the Sharks advance to the conference finals, where they were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He had a career-high 14 goals and his 62.5% faceoff-winning percentage was the third-best single-season mark in NHL history. He would later call his 2009-10 season in San Jose the “most enjoyable season [he’s] had as a pro.”
Malhotra returned to Canada in 2010, signing with the Vancouver Canucks. Now a veteran player, he was named an alternate captain and centered the Canucks’ third line in a shutdown role while helping the team win a Presidents Trophy as the top regular-season team.
During a game on March 16th, 2011 against the Colorado Avalanche, a puck hit Malhotra’s left eye, a gruesome injury which required two surgeries and significant permanent loss of vision. Although he somehow battled through to return for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins, Malhotra never fully recovered and his play deteriorated in future seasons.
After a 2012-13 season spent almost entirely on the Injured Reserve list, Malhotra had stints with the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens before retiring in 2016. He finished his NHL career with 118 goals and 297 points in 1,026 games (regular season and playoffs).
Soon after retiring, Malhotra was hired by the Canucks as a development coach. He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coach, and currently focuses on specialized skills such as faceoffs.
“That’s the kind of player I was — I had to think the game. A lot of guys out there, it’s natural ability. They’re just gifted, and it happens for them. For me, my career started to take off when I was playing for Ken Hitchcock in Columbus and I started understanding the game. More than just the details, there was the understanding of why you do something. It was a turning point in my career.”Manny Malhotra, 2016 interview with the Vancouver Sun