Dylan DeMelo watched most of the season from the press box. No longer able to bounce between the Barracuda and the Sharks thanks to a new contract, he was utilized as a seventh blueliner, only playing in 25 games.
In those 25 games, though, he had a bigger impact than last season. He doubled his points from 2015-16 in just over half as many games this year. DeBoer seemed open to playing him more, especially with the various injuries to the defensemen this season, but a broken wrist sidelined DeMelo for eight weeks in January.
Despite being in and out of the lineup, DeMelo remained a good possession player, his CF% dipping just under 50 at 49.06 compared to last season’s 52.60 according to Corsica. His giveaways were cut from 22 down to 12 (per Hockey Reference), which signals defensive growth and better play making ability.
2016-17 Sharks 5v5 Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey)
ZSR: Zone Start Ratio; The percentage of non-neutral zone starts that are offensive zone starts (OZS/(OZS + DZS))
TOI.QoT: Time On Ice Quality of Teammates; The weighted average TOI% of a player’s teammates
Rel.CF%: Individual corsi-for percentage subtracted by the team’s overall corsi-for percentage.
Dylan DeMelo Rolling 5-game score, zone, and venue-adjusted average CF% (via Corsica Hockey)
There’s not much to show of him on ice this season, so let’s just appreciate how DeMelo’s giggle (and try to not think about him potentially following in Nieto’s footsteps next season).
What comes next?
DeMelo is past the point of developing in the AHL. He needs legitimate NHL ice time and to get the chance to develop chemistry with a solid D-partner. He might be able to eke out one more season as a seventh defenseman, but anything past that is going to be counter-intuitive to his growth as a player.
He will undoubtedly be exposed in the expansion draft and if the Sharks aren’t willing to play him, Vegas might not be a horrible option. Vegas would gain a young NHL-ready defenseman who has room to grow in their system and the Sharks would only lose a player who has mostly filled in during injuries and is relatively replaceable. But should the Sharks lose a different defenseman in the draft, next year could (and should) be the time for him to play 82 games.
At 24, DeMelo is under contract through 2017-18, at a cap hit of $700,000.