WINNIPEG - Dylan DeMelo gave himself a homework assignment during the season pause.
He had only played 10 games with the Winnipeg Jets (after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators on February 18, 2020), so he set aside time to watch clips from those 10 games as a refresher.
It was an opportunity to get reacquainted with the teammates he's been skating with in training camp the last four days.
"We're not playing an overly extensive system or anything like that, but just to get familiar again with where guys are, where I need to be as a defenceman all over the ice," said DeMelo following Thursday's 75-minute skate.
"It really feels like a beginning training camp for me as opposed to the other guys, it's maybe a little bit different for them having been around. I'm treating this as a training camp like it would be in September."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Dylan DeMelo
The 10 games may only offer a small sample size, but DeMelo's body of work in that short span has left an impression on his teammates - including his defensive partner Josh Morrissey.
"He's been a seamless transition," said Morrissey. "I think I said it after a couple games playing with him, but he plays a simple game. It's not a detriment at all to describe somebody. I think that might be one of the best compliments. He always makes the smart little play, he makes it look easy."
Those characteristics make him an ideal player to match up with Morrissey, says head coach Paul Maurice.
"He's very predictable in his game, which is where Josh excels," Maurice said. "Josh can read the game and he can read off people. The consistency there for Dylan lets Josh move off of him well."
The pair played six games together, playing 66:37 of even strength hockey in that time. With the duo on the ice, the Jets had more shot attempts for (59) than against (52).
DeMelo points to the March 11 victory over the Edmonton Oilers - the final game before the pause - as the best he and Morrissey played together as a unit.
That night, they saw a lot of Leon Draisaitl - a finalist for this season's Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player in the league as voted by the players - and Connor McDavid.
"Josh is a great hockey player. He's an elite hockey player and he's an even better person off the ice. It's real easy to play with him," said DeMelo. "We're just trying to get that chemistry again the first couple days here at camp. He's a very easy guy to play with. He has awesome reads, he has a great gap, good stick, a very easy guy for me to play with."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Paul Maurice
The best way to prepare to go up against Draisaitl, McDavid, and other high-end talents in the NHL is to face that in practice.
Luckily for them, they have two-time NHL All-Star Blake Wheeler - who also has the fourth most points among right-wingers in the NHL since 2016-17 - and his linemates Mark Scheifele (also a two-time NHL All-Star), and Kyle Connor (who has three straight 30-goal seasons in the first four years of his career).
And that's just one line.
"Even going through our whole forward group, we've got a lot of talented players. Practice is the time to push yourself," said Morrissey. "For me, I like to go up against those type of players in practice. That's how you get better and that's how they get better as well. You have to have that competition."
DeMelo agrees. During his time in Ottawa and San Jose earlier in his career, he loved the style of play the Jets brought every night. Now going up against it in camp every day is making him an even better defenceman.
"I think in practice we take the drills very seriously. We don't like getting beat 3-on-2, even if it's 2-on-1, we're competitive guys and we try to treat every drill as we would in a game," DeMelo said. "We like going against Scheif and his line and our top players. If we can do a good job on our top guys, we feel confident in a game going against other top lines."
With less than two weeks to go until the preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks, DeMelo can't wait to get back to work with his teammates and put all that homework to good use.
"It's been a long time and we've been ramping it up each and every day here," he said. "To be back now is great. I think there is an excitement around the group right now. We're really looking forward to getting after it."