DeMelo, the former 2011 sixth-round pick, continued his unlikely ascend in the hockey ranks and showed promise in his rookie season.
This is our fourth player review for the 2015-16 season. Be sure to check out some of our previous reviews below:
Following a brief two-game stint in the NHL in late October, the San Jose Sharks sent Dylan DeMelo to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, but it wouldn’t be long before the club decided to recall the rookie defenseman just after Thanksgiving.
The former Sharks sixth-round pick saw another stint in the AHL from February-March, but a regular season-ending injury to fellow defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic meant DeMelo would play out the rest of the season as a Shark.
Despite going back and forth, DeMelo handled it fairly well, and it was quite evident by taking a peek at the stat-sheets as the season wore on.
In nine December contests, he averaged slightly more than 11 minutes of ice time per game. In the 12 games he played in January, that number increased to 12:30 per game. Before being sent to the Barracuda for a few weeks in late-February through mid-March, his ice time increased to 12 minutes and 43 seconds in February.
Once Vlasic went down and DeMelo made a return to the big league, his role drastically increased. In the final 12 games of the season DeMelo was on the ice for an average of more than 17 minutes per contest sliding into the second pairing with Justin Braun on most nights.
The transition from seeing around 10-12 minutes per game in DeMelo’s first two stints in the NHL to 15-20 minutes every night as a top-four defenseman is a tough ask, and while his offensive output was mostly awol, he was ample defensively and not visibly outmatched on a nightly basis. Plus, one of those goals was an important one and go-ahead goal in the third period against Calgary.
He finished the year with just two goals and two assists in 45 games; however he showed a powerful slap shot and never finished with worse than a minus-one rating in any month. According to puckalytics.com, DeMelo completed the campaign with a 52.3 Corsi – better than fellow defensemen Paul Martin and Justin Braun – and a 54.0 Fenwick. Those numbers obviously don’t tell the whole story and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but it does say something that the Sharks were generating shots just as well with DeMelo on the ice as they were with their other blue-liners.
There are defensemen in the league whose best asset is giving their team mistake-free ice-time despite not being flashy or offensive-minded, and DeMelo did just that this year for his squad.
His success in evading the penalty box was a plus for the Sharks. He only had 14 penalty minutes on the season. Defensive-defensemen like DeMelo was this season must make up for their lack of offense with a lack of defensive mistakes, and DeMelo was very strong in that aspect. In comparison, Roman Polak had 72 penalty minutes in 79 games and Brenden Dillon earned 61 PIM in 76 games.
DeMelo is a restricted free-agent and expected to make a return next year in teal as a young player who showed he may be a capable top-four defenseman in the future.
This is an improving, disciplined and smart player who will look to make the transition into a full-time NHL role next season following his satisfactory rookie campaign.