The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eleven writers and 480 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2019 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.
After a rocky first season as a pro, Nicolas Meloche finally found some stability with the Colorado Eagles. Drafted 40th overall in 2015, Meloche a smooth skating right-shooting defenseman with size that can contribute offensively - he’s got a great shot from the point on the power play - while also providing the type of grit and toughness you like to see from a big defender.
With the addition of Cale Makar and Conor Timmins to the right side of the defensive depth chart in 2017, Meloche began to look like he was going to be the odd man out despite an incredible junior career in the QMJHL. He’s a very good puck moving defender but not at the same level as the two younger prospects. That said, the injury to Timmins last season allowed Meloche to play regular top-4 minutes in Loveland this past season. On top of that, he was a big part of the powerplay and found himself on the ice during just about every overtime period. Head Coach Greg Cronin wasn’t afraid to lean heavily on Meloche this season and he responded with a level of confidence we hadn’t seen during his time in San Antonio. He 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.
With the trade of Tyson Barrie, Meloche has moved up the depth chart this offseason. Add to that the fact that Erik Johnson is working back from off-season surgery (though the team is expecting EJ to be ready for opening night) and we could see the 22-year old from LaSalle, Quebec get a lot of playing time in the preseason.
Right now, Johnson and Makar are the only right-handed defenders that are a lock to make the Avalanche lineup this season. Timmins is healthy but after missing the last 15 months of hockey, he is almost certainly destined to spend most of the season in the AHL. That leaves an opening for Meloche if he is able to impress the Avs coaching staff during training camp and the preseason.
Both Mark Barberio and Nikita Zadorov can play on the right side, so Jared Bednar is going to have veteran options to fill the third spot on the right side of his blue line. Meloche is also still waiver exempt for one more year meaning it will be easier to send him to the Eagles.
If he doesn’t get his shot out of training camp, most would expect Meloche to play the 1D role with the Eagles and be a candidate to be the first one called up to the NHL when the Avs need help in-season. If that’s not the case, he could go the way of Chris Bigras and end up being moved for another organization’s “fringe” prospect. Either that or he ends up being the defensive version of A. J. Greer, where the organization sees something that many fans don’t.
Despite having his development stunted in San Antonio, Meloche has a world of talent and all it will take is a legitimate chance to prove himself at the NHL level. He’s big, feisty and can skate in way that would fit in perfectly with this Avalanche team. For many, Meloche as the 3RD this season - and going forward - makes all the sense in the world, let’s see if Bednar and his staff feel the same way.