WINNIPEG -- With one career NHL game under his belt coming into the 2015-2016 season, Julian Melchiori has seen his confidence grow in the seven games he’s been in since Mar. 14.
“I think every game, every period, I’m getting more confident out there. Most of it is just battling the nerves. A lot of players are obviously capable of playing in this league, I think that’s just conquering those nerves and getting that confidence,” said the 24-year-old after Saturday’s practice. “Every game I’m learning stuff you can get away with, stuff you can’t, and I think that’s helping my overall game.”
Melchiori has been paired with Paul Postma for the majority of his time with the Winnipeg Jets this season. The two spent time on the blue line together in the AHL, which has made for an easy transition to patrolling the Jets defensive zone together night after night.
“He’s a little bit more offensive minded than me, obviously. He likes to really jump in the play,” Melchiori said of Postma. “I think him knowing I’m more of a defensively minded guy, he’s more confident in doing so.”
In Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Chicago, Melchiori played 12:08 and was a +1 with two shots on goal. Meanwhile, team mate Adam Lowry 12:37 of ice time, including 1:42 shorthanded. Part of those penalty kill minutes came on a 5-on-3.
“I forced Lowry back out on the 5-on-3 even though he was a bit winded. I want those guys to go through those things,” said head coach Paul Maurice, who says he’s running the bench a bit differently. “I’m not running the bench to lose games by any means, but we’re here to see some of these guys play. I will play Scheifele’s line close to a normal game. They’re getting the minutes they normally would deserve. But everything after that is somewhere between 12-15 minutes up front.”
While Maurice says the coaching staff is still evaluating what the younger players bring to the ice each night, Lowry believes there is a huge value in going up against perennial Stanley Cup contenders like the Blackhawks.
“It’s important that you come out in these games and get a feel for what it takes to be an elite team,” he said. “You look at how well Chicago moves the puck, and how responsible they are with the puck. We get Minnesota tomorrow. They’re another team that takes care of the puck extremely well.
“We’ve got LA, Anaheim, and San Jose, three big teams that play hard at both ends of the rink. You have the new guys coming in and getting used to those styles of play. Obviously playing in the Central Division there’s a lot of tough games, there are no easy nights… It’s going to help for next year, definitely.”
Even though next year is still a ways away, Maurice had a clear message for the younger players who have had a taste of NHL action this season.
“Playing in the NHL now doesn’t guarantee you’re playing in the NHL at the start of next year,” he said. “I think all of them as an individual has probably made a case that they deserve an opportunity, or a real solid look next year… What you do in the summer, the kind of conditioning you come back in, the kind of camp you have, will have a greater impact.
“You’re not going to be able to come in and compete with two or three other young players for a job and have an average camp. Someone is going to take your job out of the start.”