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Preview/Lines #27: Meloche Looks to Middleton, Boughner for Inspiration

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Credit: San Jose Barracuda

San Jose Sharks defenseman Nicolas Meloche’s biggest supporter is his father Michel, who shows his passion for his son’s performances every night through social media.

“He’s a great hockey fan,” Meloche said. “He’s really passionate about the game. He loves Twitter. He follows it all. It’s just been great to have him. He’s realizing his dream a bit with his son is playing professional hockey.”

Meloche is also currently fulfilling his dream as a little kid growing up in LaSalle, Quebec where he watched the Montreal Canadiens as much as he could with his family. Now, all grown up, Meloche has found himself as a regular on the San Jose Sharks roster, suited typically on the team’s third defensive pairing.

“It’s been a really weird year again, but I’m really pleased,” Meloche said. Last year, Meloche spent a lot of time on San Jose’s taxi squad. “The team is doing well. I’ve been taking it day by day and working hard and doing my job.”

From a young age, Meloche started learning the ropes of playing defenseman for a couple of particular reasons.

“I wanted to be on the ice as much as I could and I really hated more to get scored on than to score so that was probably it too,” Meloche said with a chuckle.

Meloche was taken in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound defenseman was prized then more for his offensive skill set by the front office.

However, when the Avalanche drafted Cale Makar with the No. 4 overall pick in 2017, Meloche saw the writing on the wall, asking Colorado specifically to put him on the penalty kill more.

The Colorado organization, however, didn’t quite to see it Meloche’s way. On September 17, 2019, Meloche was traded to the San Jose Sharks for goaltender Antoine Bibeau, which provided a fresh start for Meloche.

“It was a bit of a tough transition, but I fit in pretty well now,” Meloche said of changing his game. “I just got to keep working hard.”

In his second season with the San Jose Sharks, Meloche has recorded one assist in eight games and has skated an average of over 16 minutes of ice time per night over that span.

On top of playing quality minutes at the NHL level, Meloche has gained valuable experience and mentorship at practices from veteran defensemen Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and fellow French-Canadian Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

“They’ve been really great with me, always positive,” Meloche said. “They’re great leaders. They have a lot of experience. It’s great for me to watch them play every day.”

One guy Meloche has found a nice friendship and learning opportunity from is defenseman Jake Middleton, who served his time in the AHL over five seasons. For Meloche, he sees Middleton as a great example of the shaping of his own career path.

“Me and Middleton talk a lot,” Meloche said. “Last year was a difficult situation for him, but he came back so hard. I’m trying to take a part of his game. He’s a physical defenseman, so I can be that too. I’m trying to do the same as him.”

Meloche’s head coach, Bob Boughner, also followed a similar course. Boughner played 188 games in the American Hockey League before making it to the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.

Together, they both share a same mindset to further their careers.

“To stay positive and be confident in yourself I think is the most important thing,” Meloche said, who has 193 AHL games under his belt. “It’s a long journey, so I’m going to take it day by day and just work hard and play as well as I can.”

Meloche is expected to suit up alongside Vlasic again as the San Jose Sharks continue their seven-game homestand tonight against the Minnesota Wild — another tough challenge to tackle on home ice.

“I’m excited,” Meloche said. “It’s so fun to come to the rink every day, realizing that you’re playing and doing what you’ve wanted to do your whole life.”

San Jose Sharks (14-11-1)

Adin Hill is expected to make his fifth straight start in goal.

This, by the way, is how the Sharks lined up in their last game:

Minnesota Wild (18-6-1)

Per Daily Faceoff, this is how the Wild are expected to line up:

Kirill Kaprizov — Ryan Hartman — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Rem Pitlick — Victor Rask — Kevin Fiala
Brandon Duhaime — Nico Sturm — Nick Bjugstad

Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Alex Goligoski
Jordie Benn — Dmitry Kulikov

Cam Talbot
Kaapo Kahkonen

Russo says that Dumba is out with a not COVID-related illness.

Where to Watch

Puck drop against the Wild is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California and ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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