The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey writing staff. Our writers, plus a special vote from the readers, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
Nicolas Meloche was Colorado's third selection at 40th overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft, which is progressing as a strong draft class for the organization. He is a right shot defenseman and the first at the position taken for the Avalanche in this draft class. Meloche concludes a four year QMJHL career in which he played 268 games, including 56 playoff contests for three different organizations in the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Gatineau Olympiques and Charlottetown Islanders. He scored 45 goals and 139 points with an additional 28 points in the playoffs over the course of his career. Meloche was traded twice from rebuilding organizations in his junior career and should enjoy stability moving forward.
Meloche is most recognized for his toughness and defensive play. He had been known to drop the gloves to defend a teammate or to deliver a big hit when needed. But really his specialty is making his presence felt in the corners, along the boards and in front of the net, especially to the opposition's best forwards. He loves to agitate and chirp to get the opponent off their game. Meloche is also very solid defensively. He uses good positioning and gap control with an active stick and is able to play heavy minutes in all situations. In an interview with TVA Sports, Charlottetown coach Jim Hulton praised Meloche's game saying "he's that horse on the backend that can play every other shift and is as comfortable in the 20th minute as he is in the first minute".
The part where Meloche is underrated is his offensive game. He has worked over his junior career to become quite an adept puck mover and playmaker. He will often start the break out and can get a good first pass out of the defensive zone. Meloche also possesses a hard and accurate shot which he uses on the power play but can also score goals with his heavy wrist shot. Meloche was the second highest goal scoring defenseman in the league this past year with 16 goals, proving he can get on the scoresheet where it matters the most.
As Meloche embarks on his career in professional hockey he will have a familiar face in reunion with San Antonio Rampage coach Eric Veilleux, who was the coach his rookie season in Baie-Comeau when they went to the QMJHL league finals. Veilleux guided him to a 25 point season that year and understands that there is offensive upside with Meloche. It is easy to focus on his size at 6'3 and 205 lbs and project him in a shutdown role especially when the going gets tough but it will be important to commit to continue developing those offensive tools. In San Antonio Meloche should get all situations playing time in a top four role while working on his offensive and defensive game and continued improvement in his skating and hopefully be on the radar for a call up to Colorado by the end of the season. It's just the beginning for this talented and versatile blue liner.