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2023 CBJ Top 25 Under 25: James Malatesta made strides before being named QMJHL playoff MVP

Thanks to the 79 readers who submitted ballots in this year’s ranking of Columbus Blue Jackets players under the age of 25. Stay tuned over the next six weeks as we count down the top 25.

#18 James Malatesta


18th out of 45 eligible players
Writer Rank: 18
Reader Rank: 18
Highest placement: 5 (1 vote)
Most common placement: 19 (9 votes)
2022 Rank: 27


Birthdate: May 31, 2003
Birthplace: Montreal, QC, CAN
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 190 lbs
Position: Left Wing / Center
Shoots: Left
Acquired: 2021 5th round 133rd overall pick

2022-23 Season

James Malatesta returned to the QMJHL for the 22-23 season, playing 55 games for the Quebec Ramparts. In those 55 games, Malatesta averaged just over a point per game, notching 37-29-66 in the regular season with 64 PIM and a +34. Malatesta, however, took another step forward in the playoffs for the Ramparts – Malatesta won the Guy Lafleur trophy as QMJHL playoffs MVP en route to the Quebec Ramparts winning the Memorial Cup.

All told, this was Malatesta’s hardware haul for the 2022-23 season: CHL Memorial Cup All Star Team, CHL Memorial Cup champion, CHL Memorial Cup MVP (Stafford Smythe Trophy after posting 5 goals in 4 games), QMJHL Champion, and the QMJHL Playoffs MVP. Quite the accolades for a former 5th round pick.

2023-24 Season Outlook

On December 1, 2022, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that James Malatesta had signed his 3 year entry level deal. As a result of his signing, Malatesta is eligible to play next season for the Cleveland Monsters. Malatesta will be a restricted free agent at the end of the contract following the 2025-26 season.

Malatesta can play offensively, but has to continue rounding out his game – particularly on the defensive side of the puck as well as better handling physicality – before he will be ready for the NHL. Malatesta’s offensive ability will get him consistent time in Cleveland, and it’s up to the player to continue to work to take the the next steps in his development.