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2016 Top 25 Avalanche Under 25: #11 Nicolas Meloche

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September 12, 2016

Today, BSN Avalanche’s Top 25 Colorado Avalanche Under 25 series continues with Nicolas Meloche, who was ranked 11th by the BSN staff. BSN’s 2015 T25U25 series was concluded prior to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, where Meloche was drafted by the Avalanche, and as such he has not been previously ranked.

Who is Nicolas Meloche?

Scouts Say

Meloche’s strengths include his decision-making, positioning, shot generation, and ability to move the puck, both as the quarterback on the power play, and while exiting the defensive zone. Meloche has also been lauded for his “mean streak”; he relishes physical play in corners and along the walls, which, in addition to his active stick, makes him formidable in the defensive zone.

A number of scouting outlets have touted Meloche as a smooth skater in the past, but that’s a bit of an over-simplification in my opinion. Meloche accelerates well, and moves north-to-south capably, but his east-to-west movement, transitions, and edge work leave much to be desired. Meloche’s shot has also received mixed reviews; some scouts count it as a strength, while others don’t consider it to be NHL-quality.

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By the Numbers

Prospect Stats lists Meloche’s 2015-2016 5v5 GF% RelTM as -1.94, but they don’t seem to have differentiated between the 25 games he spent with the miserably bad Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and the 28 games he spent with the Gatineau Olympiques. As such, it’s difficult to ascertain Meloche’s true ability to drive his team’s goal differential.

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Meloche recorded an impressive 3.13 shots/GP in 2015-2016, trailing only Thomas Chabot and Nikolas Brouillard amongst defensemen who played at least 30 games in the QMJHL. Meloche takes the majority of his shots from the point, as expected for a defenseman who ran his team’s power play.

Meloche recorded a respectable 0.62 points/GP in the 2015-2016, but 14 of his 20 assists were secondary, which is slightly concerning. Colorado’s front office will certainly be eager to see what Meloche can do in Gatineau, where he’ll be surrounded by a more talented supporting cast. If Meloche is unable to produce offense in the QMJHL during his Draft + 2 season, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to in the NHL.

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Despite favouring the shot from the point, the majority of Meloche’s goals come from pinches into the high slot. It will be interesting to see if Meloche is mobile enough to make these same pinches at the NHL level, without exposing himself defensively.

What is the future for Nicolas Meloche?

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As per DEV, Meloche’s probability of making the NHL fell to 23.8% after the 2015-2016 season, having peaked at 77.8% in 2015 prior to the draft. That said, it’s likely that playing on an atrocious Baie-Comeau squad, and being forced to make a mid-season transition to Gatineau had a negative impact on his point totals.

Meloche will be spending the 2016-2017 season with the Gatineau Olympiques, and a strong draft + 2 season, a la Chris Bigras, is required to solidify his position within the Colorado Avalanche system. Though he wasn’t invited to Team Canada’s World Junior summer camp, putting himself in contention for the team is, in my opinion, an achievable goal.

Should he make a smooth transition to professional hockey, Meloche’s ceiling in the NHL is likely a versatile, middle-pairing defender who is capable of logging time on both the power play and the penalty kill.

Follow Luke Steer on Twitter: @lukeasteer

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