For John Malone, the rising sophomore at Delbarton School, the hockey dream didn’t start as a young boy; in fact, his hockey story began as an eight year old after traveling 3,000 miles across the country. He was born in Danville, CA; a town located about 30 miles east of San Francisco. Malone didn’t know anything about hockey growing up and certainly wasn’t in the rinks. It wasn’t until his family moved to Madison, NJ where his father got him into youth hockey. His cousins were around the same age and played hockey so it was a natural fit.
“My uncle and father got me into the game and I have loved it ever since. I started with just lessons and then moved on to travel mites. Mites was the first time I had ever tried out for a team and I remember it like it was yesterday waiting for the team roster to be picked. My dad was inside the rink pacing back and forth waiting for the results as my mom and I waited nervously in the car.”
He would go on to make the NJ Colonials Mite team and move up the ranks within the organization. In seventh grade John made the move to Delbarton, one of the most respected private schools in the state of New Jersey. Delbarton also happens to have the best hockey program as well.
“First and foremost Delbarton offers a tremendous education. The school has a rich academic and hockey history and it means a lot to put that jersey on and represent your school. A lot of players before me have had the opportunity to play midget or prep school or even junior hockey and decide to stay at Delbarton to win a state championship and attend the school. It’s hard to explain the atmosphere unless you have played here but if you have, you’d understand why it’s so hard to leave.”
Malone was a freshman this year on a talented Delbarton team that won the NJ State Championship. Our scouts saw him scrimmage against Belmont Hill and Dexter before Thanksgiving and he looked like a high end prospect with potential but had a way to go. By the end of the year, John compiled an impressive 8-14-22 line over 30 games. His success led to a late round selection in the USHL Futures Draft by the Youngstown Phantoms who also selected teammate Jalen Kaplan.
“I was contacted by three USHL teams but Youngstown appeared the most interested. They have drafted a lot of Delbarton guys over the years and kept tabs on me throughout the season. I knew I wouldn’t be a top round guy and it would be in the later rounds so I started really paying attention after the first five rounds. It was exciting, I watched on draft tracker. I saw my name on the screen and immediately got a call from their staff welcoming me to the organization.”
Despite being drafted, it wasn’t until the Atlantic Development Camp that we really started to get a sense of what Malone could do as a player. John next played at the Liberty Bell Games, an amateur hockey showcase with all the best prospects in the Atlantic region. It’s run by Ottawa Senators scout Lew Mongelluzzo. Malone was one of the best players on the ice game after game at Liberty Bell. Neutral Zone elevated him from a 3-star prospect to a 4-star, which is rare.
“I didn’t have really any interest from colleges until the Atlantic Development Camp and the Liberty Bell Games. After Liberty Bell, I started hearing from some schools.”
He would later attend the Youngstown Phantoms camp in June before the National Development Camp.
“Their camp was an eye opener for me. I got to see just how fast and skilled the returning players were and play with guys much older than myself. I didn’t get college attention after the camp, but it was a great experience to measure where I stood and what I needed to do in order to play at that level going forward.”
His next stop was Buffalo, NY where he’d compete in the USA Select 16 Festival. He admitted he was disappointed in his performance at the Select 15 camp a year prior and came into the Select 16’s with a purpose.
“I wanted to prove to myself and to the coaches that I belonged there this year after not performing by best last year. I knew I was a bit of a no-namer at that point and wanted to show the coaches who I was and what I could do.”
Mission accomplished. Malone continued the strong play he’d demonstrated throughout the summer and earned a spot on the All-Star game among the countries best players. In that game, he would go on to score the lone goal for USA Blue and earn a spot on the Five Nations Team.
“The next 24 hours after making the Five Nations Team was incredible. Being selected to represent your country in international competition was a dream come true and then came the college recruiters. It all happened really fast.” Directly following the camp he visited Cornell on his way home and they offered him right on the spot. “That offer meant a lot because a lot of schools were still on the fence about me and didn’t know me well enough and Cornell stepped up to the plate and really made me feel like I was someone they wanted.”
He didn’t want to make any rash decisions and kept his options open fielding calls over the next ten days from schools in the ECAC, Big 10 and Hockey East. He decided to narrow down his search to high end academic institutions. He was offered by Harvard, Cornell and Princeton, but also visited Yale, RPI and Union.
“It was humbling to get that kind of attention after National Camp. It was crazy how many schools were reaching out and offering or trying to set up campus tours. Most importantly for me it was the validation that my goal at the National Camp was to make a name for myself and I did.”
He put the recruiters on hold while he went down to Texas to compete in the Five Nations Tournament, an international gathering of some of the top 2000 birth years in the world. The team won a gold medal but for Malone it was more than just about a showcase or winning a medal.
“To go from an unknown to playing alongside the best players in the country and wearing the red, white and blue is a special opportunity. I felt very fortunate to be there, I played the very best I could and left it all on the ice. I will cherish that memory the rest of my life.”
After much thought and a second visit, John decided Cornell was the best place for him.
“When I first started the college process my favorite school was Yale. I loved the program, the school and everything about it. Once the recruitment started Cornell was the first to reach out and they showed the most interest. I went to the campus and loved the setting, loved the coaching staff and really began to see myself playing there. The size of the school was just right, the town is secluded but really nice and the campus is beautiful. They don’t have the facilities of Harvard or Penn State but the history of the program, the rink and the strong fan support were all things that I admired about the school.”
With the college decision now behind him, John will focus on his development and helping Delbarton to another NJ state championship. He told Youngstown he was committed to returning to Delbarton, but he’s unsure of what he’ll do next season.
“My parents are proud and supportive of my hockey career but in our house it’s education first, so I am in no rush to leave Delbarton. Cornell said they would support whatever decision I made whether it’s at the end of this year or next or staying at Delbarton until I graduate. For now I am just focused on getting better every day and cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Malone is a skilled forward who likes having the puck on his stick. He’s got speed, great hands and uses his body well to shield defenders away from the puck. He makes plays off the rush and out of the corners and is tough for defenseman to match up against. He admits that he’ll need to improve his defensive zone game in order to reach his potential but he’s hungry to continue his development curve. We ask most prospects during our interviews what factors played the biggest role in their recruitment. While most players go on to tell stories about being in the rink all summer and working out tirelessly, Malone, in a very candid response said one word: “luck.”
“I played my best hockey at the right time in front of all the right coaches. If I had a poor National Camp I may not have gone on a single college visit this summer. I worked hard like everyone else there. I made the most of my on-ice sessions and off-ice workouts this summer, but in the end, I played my best when it mattered most and had some luck.”
Our scouts disagree as luck doesn’t help a 6 foot, 16 year old dangle around the country’s best defenseman or in making plays out of the corners that very few his age can. However, John’s humility and character are good signs for Cornell as he’s well on his way to becoming a blue chip prospect.
Malone is a four-star prospect ranked by Neutral Zone and received an A- grade for his performance at the National Development Camp in Buffalo, NY earlier this summer. He’ll be added to the 2019 Recruiting Class for Cornell which is their first verbal commitment of the class.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images