The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 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.
These days, a smooth skating right-shooting defenseman with size is one of the most sought-after things in hockey. Nicolas Meloche is all of those, yet for some reason, he still doesn’t get recognized as one of the top prospects in the Colorado Avalanche system.
Thanks to a rough first year in professional hockey, Meloche is starting to become one of the more underrated players in the organization.
Drafted 40th overall in 2015, Meloche made the jump to the AHL last season after finishing his career as one of the best all-around defensemen in the QMJHL.
After being buried for the first half of the season - including some time in the ECHL - Meloche finally started to see his opportunity grow as San Antonio’s season came to an end. As the season drew to a close, Meloche finally found himself getting minutes in the top-4 and on the powerplay - and he took advantage of it. He began to look comfortable in the league and was able to show the kind of all-around talent that made him a second round draft pick.
We have a tie game! Nicolas Meloche scores early in the 2nd.— San Antonio Rampage (@sarampage) February 15, 2018
ASST: Brendan Ranford pic.twitter.com/vBg81M96qb
In an interview with TVA Sports in 2016, Charlottetown Islanders 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”.
Meloche is the kind of defenseman coaches love to have on their team. He’s reliable, can handle any role and is more that ready to jump out on the ice every second shift. This is something the coaching staff in Loveland is going to learn very quickly this season.
Earlier in the offseason, some suspected that Meloche might have an outside chance of making the Avs this season. That went away when the team signed UFA Ian Cole and brought back Patrik Nemeth and Mark Barberio. With the presence of the veterans, Meloche is likely to spend the majority of the season with the Colorado Eagles, something that is likely a very good thing for his development.
We should expect Meloche and Conor Timmins to fill out the two spots on the right side of the Eagles top-4 this season. Playing huge minutes and serving a big role on both the penalty kill and powerplay, this year is going to be all about developing Meloche’s all-around game in order to prepare him to make an immediate impact when he finally makes the jump to the NHL.
While injuries are never a good thing, having Nicolas Meloche in the AHL gives the Avalanche a bit of a safety net this season. If the team has the same issues as they did last year, this season, Meloche could fill the role served by Duncan Siemens.
For most, Meloche is the third best right-handed defensive prospect in the Avalanche system, but he’s certainly the furthest along in his development and is likely to make an impact in the NHL before wither Conor Timmins or Cale Makar.