Jets love Melchiori’s upside

Young blue-liner a late bloomer, but could have a bright future in bigs


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It is no slight, only reality that at some point very soon, 19-year-old defenceman and 2010 third-round draft pick Julian Melchiori will be on his way back to the OHL and the Kitchener Rangers.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/09/2011 (4023 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is no slight, only reality that at some point very soon, 19-year-old defenceman and 2010 third-round draft pick Julian Melchiori will be on his way back to the OHL and the Kitchener Rangers.

But among the prospects and youngsters invited to the Winnipeg Jets prospects and main training camps, the Toronto-area native has done what he needed to do — draw some attention, and for the right reasons.

Melchiori, at 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, is exactly the kind of player that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been referring to since taking the job in June.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jets prospect Julian Melchiori's (right) size and grit have made a favourable impression during training camp.

The organization has young players already playing and some who are on the verge of making it. Further building the team’s depth to include draft picks and prospects who are ably advancing through the system and who will improve the Jets’ future is a process less in the news but vital to the franchise’s long-term health.

Melchiori’s size and reach are intriguing. But the fact that he’s only played one year of major junior hockey to this point (one goal, 20 points) and that this was his very first exposure to an NHL main camp placed him among the most unlikely candidates to stick around long.

“When you look at him, you have to look at the experience he has, or lack thereof,” said the head coach of the Jets’ AHL affiliate, Keith McCambridge. “He’s a big man, he moves well but he’s in that development stage. I see a younger guy who is growing into his body. That size and co-ordination and balance, it’s a matter of everything coming together. I believe it will. He’s shown some signs, that if everything plays out and he makes the right steps development-wise, he could be a good one and he’s a guy we’re going to keep a close eye on.”

McCambridge, who directed Melchiori at the prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C., and again Tuesday in the NHL pre-season game in Columbus, was asked if this is another Chris Tanev story.

Tanev was a free-agent signee a year ago by the Vancouver Canucks after one year of tier-two junior and one year of college hockey. Totally under the NHL radar, the tall, rangy blue-liner debuted with the Manitoba Moose and it became evident early that he had a superior understanding of how to play defence and a no-panic disposition.

“Oh, I think it’s too early to tell but he’s definitely shown some real positive things in Penticton at rookie camp,” McCambridge said on the Tanev comparison. “Every practice, every game, you could tell the jitters left Julian’s game, he got more and more comfortable and he’s impressed every practice in main camp and that’s rolled into an opportunity for him to play an exhibition game.

“It’s great for him to get it under his belt.”

That exhibition game wasn’t without its troubles, though Melchiori did show a knack for good positioning against some odd-man rushes and he made some quality passes.

“There were nerves to start but obviously as the game wore on he got better,” McCambridge said.

“His speed at times, well, I thought the game was moving faster than he could keep up with it but he made some really good first passes out of his own zone and made some really good reads off the rush, some of those odd-man rushes.”

Melchiori, who won’t turn 20 until December, sounded a lot more encouraged this week than he was a year ago, when the Thrashers did not bring him to their main camp.

“I was kind of upset,” he said. “I had wanted to get some main camp experience but I still hadn’t played a full year of major junior yet. They just said they wanted to get me back to that.

“So I’ve just worked hard this summer, had a good rookie tournament and I’m just taking one day at a time. I’d just like to keep that up.”

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