After his first two NHL seasons, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dylan DeMelo remains something of an unknown quantity. He’s only played 70 NHL games over the last two seasons, relegated to the role of a seventh defensemen after the team acquired Roman Polak at the 2016 trade deadline and signed David Schlemko in free agency last summer.
Schlemko is gone now, and will skate for the Montreal Canadiens this season (by way of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights), giving DeMelo his best opportunity to establish a regular role in his third NHL season. He played fewer games than his rookie season, but there were signs that Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer trusted DeMelo more in his second season.
He played 2:17 more per game in 2016-17, and made the most of his opportunities when he was in the lineup. DeMelo doubled his point totals (a goal, seven assists) from 2015-16 (two goals, two assists) and was ten shots shy (32) of matching his rookie-year totals (42) in 20 fewer games.
DeMelo was undoubtedly buoyed by an on-ice shooting percentage that was 4.9% higher (9.7%) than his rookie season (5.8%), but it’s still reasonable to conclude that he took a step forward in limited action last season. The problem is just how limited that action was, as illustrated by San Jose’s defensive usage chart below, courtesy of Hockey Abstract’s player usage charts.
The 24-year-old faced the worst quality of competition of any Sharks defensemen last season, and played the fewest minutes per game of any San Jose blueliner that played a minimum of 100 minutes at even strength last season. He didn’t see the easiest zone starts, but still started a majority of his shifts in the offensive zone.
DeMelo needs to be let off of the leash this season, and he most likely will. The sixth defensive spot is his to lose in training camp, and he’s shown enough over the last two seasons to indicate he’s ready for a regular role. It’s about time, too, as we really haven’t seen enough of DeMelo over the last two seasons to determine if he can amount to anything more than a bottom-pairing defenseman.
Name: Dylan DeMelo
Age (as of 9/9/17): 24
Last Year’s Ranking: 6
2016-17 Team: San Jose Sharks
Where he’ll (probably) be next year: San Jose Sharks
What we like
Solid all-around game, improved offensive output.
What to improve on
Driving play and offense in his minutes to demonstrate readiness for a role beyond the bottom pairing.
DeMelo’s lone goal of the 2016-17 season was a beauty, although I’m not sure if it’s better than his mustache.