Winnipeg Jets left-handed defensemen Julian Melchiori has long been a pet prospect of mine, predominately due to the Jets' dismal lack in quality LHD prospects (although much improved with the Josh Morrissey selection). Melchiori already has NHL size, strength and skating and he has already surpassed older prospects Will O`Neill, Ben Chiarot and Cody Sol in the depth charts.
We had a draw for sixteen and seventeen, so Arctic Ice Hockey asked for the services of FOTB Melissa Martin to break the tie.
Melissa Martin tie-breaking vote: Julian Melchiori
Previous Rank: NR (only went up to 15)
Opting for the CHL
Julian Melchiori's journey starts at Junior A in 2009-10. Melchiori was offered a full four year scholarship at UMass-Lowell and therefore did not opt to play in Major Juniors to keep his NCAA option available. He showed flashes of offense with being 17th overall for defensemen points with putting up a 0.59 point per game pace. Julian won the OHA's Top Prospect award for his solid year. In addition, being a big, mobile defensemen who can move the puck well and had some offensive upside caused the Thrashers to select him in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft.
Melchiori is the nephew of Mike Murphy, assistant president of the NHL. Mike's son, Sean Murphy, was a scout for the Kitchener Rangers and convinced the team to trade for the young blue-liner and match UMass-Lowell's scholarship offer. Sean also gave a convincing argument to Melchiori that Kitchener would be the best route for Melchiori to the NHL. Thrashers mid-round pick from the year prior, Cody Sol was also traded to the Kitchener Rangers, which began a battle for icetime which continues to this day. Melchiori's offensive output in his OHL rookie season was unimpressive although with minimal power play icetime, with that going to the well deserved specialist Ryan Murphy. Julian did however manage to slightly outpace the one year more veteran Sol.
The next year marked the move of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise to Winnipeg, but also the birth of AHL affiliate St. John's IceCaps. The training camp was slightly hectic, but Melchiori proved enough to be signed an ELC. Pieces began to fall downstream though and Melchiori was moved back to the OHL to play out his overage, albeit sophomore, season. His production picked up a step, but really jumped up in the second half after being traded (back) to the Oshawa Generals where he finally started to see some power play time. His second half Draft+2 production rate falls only behind Paul Postma and Brenden Kichton for Jets' CHL defensemen; however, his full seasonal average is below that of Zachary Yuen.
While Melchiori projects as more of a defensive defensemen at this time, it has been shown that higher level defensive defensemen tend to display offensive instincts at lower levels. It is extraordinarily rare that junior defensive defensemen absent of any offense graduate to the NHL as competent defensive defensemen.
The next season marked Melchiori's graduation to pro-hockey. Over the summer Julian prepped by being the first Jet prospect to attend Gary Roberts' performance camp. The rookie then beat Cody Sol -- who was then sent down to the ECHL -- for the final roster spot on a deep blue line that consisted of Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, Derek Meech, and Travis Ramsey. After the lockout's end shipped many back to the NHL, Melchiori rose the ranks, finishing as the top pairing defensemen and winning the IceCaps rookie of the year award.
Stuart fans beware
Some fans love Mark Stuart for his heart and tenacity, while others curse at their television as they watch Stuart helplessly becoming trapped in his own zone, unable to break out, and imitating a penalty kill at even strength. This second group has long hoped for a crease clearing left handed third pair defensemen who can still move the puck forward competently. It seemed like the Jets' decided that Arturs Kulda and Zach Yuen are not to be that player; however, hopes still live on within Julian Melchiori.
Melchiori will likely anchor the top pair in the IceCaps with the camp battle loser between Zach Redmond and Jacob Trouba. He is likely to see a lot more minutes and responsibilities this season in pro and will be leaned on heavily. If he performs well, we may see Melchiori in Winnipeg as soon as this season.