Julian Melchiori's first NHL game came on December 27th of 2013, a match in which the 6'5" blueliner played 08:41 TOI and was a -1. Dany Heatley scored the game's first goal, while back-to-back tallies from Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen put Winnipeg up 2-1, on their way to an eventual 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild. While much of the boxscore remains familiar, some of it reads like a forever ago.
While not quite forever, Melchiori did have to wait over two years until his big league return. It finally arrived on March 14th of this year, the first of 11 games he would play during the 2015-16 season. The 24-year-old averaged 13:35 TOI but remains in the hunt for his first NHL point, a not-unexpected detail considering his 26 points and 171 PIM in 235 AHL regular season games. Here is your good ol' fashioned, big-bodied defensive
zone pylon defenseman.
Melchiori's underlying numbers would seem to reinforce this assessment, though they should be taken with a grain of salt given the small sample size. We begin with traditional shots:
Right off the bat, there's reason for concern. Not only is Melchiori coming in at below a 50.00 raw SF%, but his -4.81 Rel.SF% surpasses both Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart in badness. It is, in fact, worst among Jets defenders. Let's reword that slightly for the sake of emphasis: the Winnipeg Jets were less likely to be outshot with Ben Chiarot or Mark Stuart on the ice than Julian Melchiori.
To change the metric from shots on goal to Corsi (all shot attempts, including missed and blocked opportunities) is to only make matters worse:
What wasn't great to begin with becomes borderline horrific, featuring a 44.58 CF% and -6.01 Rel.CF% which both lead Winnipeg's blueline from behind. It's interesting to observe how Melchiori's remarkable lack of offensive opportunities stands out when looking at Corsi. Only Anthony Peluso, Scott Kosmachuk, and Matt Halischuk performed to the tune of a lower CF60 and Rel.CF60. When your "shutdown" abilities actually translate into being significantly outchanced, it's not really a good thing. If the Jets want genuinely low-event hockey where they come out on the positive side of the ledger, meet Enstrom-Myers.
Melchiori's predominant defensive partner was Paul Postma, and Postma suffered for it. Let's compare Melchiori-Postma to the latter's pairing with Chiarot:
The difference is night and day on every level. Whereas Chiarot-Postma was a strong possession duo which tilted the ice in the right direction to a significant degree, Melchiori-Postma was buried by the opposition. This comes in spite of their kind of knowing each other's game:
"We've played together in the American League... I know his game and he knows mine." -Melchiori on Postma.https://t.co/7AYuqs950D— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) April 2, 2016
If Paul Postma felt more confident offensively because of Melchiori's defensive credentials, the evidence isn't to be found in the numbers.
Without Winnipeg's rash of injuries towards the end of the season (not to mention management's lack of vested interest in icing the best squad possible), it seems highly unlikely that Julian Melchiori sees NHL action. Moving forward, without a single addition to the d-corps, the 2010 3rd rounder should probably rank no higher than tenth on the organizational depth chart. Whether by skill, contract or both, Trouba, Byfuglien, Enstrom, Myers, Chiarot, Postma, Stuart, Morrissey and Kichton all have a case for being slotted ahead of the Richmond Hill, Ontario native.
Melchiori is coming off a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 and $75,000 at the NHL and AHL level, respectively. Unfortunately for his NHL chances, both Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart already serve as the team's stay-at-home, "defensive defensemen" (and Josh Morrissey may be big league ready sooner rather than later). Considering this, another two-way contract with similar terms may be both the best and most likely course of action.
Especially if Melchiori is "the Moose's Mark Stuart", that right there should guarantee his spot on the AHL roster.
@arcticicehockey your headline should have been "Cloudy with a chance of Melchiori"— K_Slobo (@k_slobo) March 14, 2016