It’s pretty easy for Dallon Melin to smile on game days.
The Red Deer Rebels second-year forward can almost always look up from the ice at the Centrium and see his family.
For many players across the WHL, that isn’t a luxury they have.
Melin’s family, including his grandma and grandpa, parents and sister pack into the family car almost routinely make the trip from the small town of Czar, about a three-hour drive to the Centrium.
At 17, 82 games into his WHL career, Melin knows how lucky he is to have their support.
“They’re really supportive. I have my grandpa and grandma, dad, mom and sister at almost every game, it’s awesome I get to see them lots, I’m luckier than a lot of guys,” he said before practice Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday’s game with Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Originally a second-round WHL Bantam Draft pick by the Victoria Royals in 2017, Melin has had an interesting start to his WHL career. After playing sparingly for the Rebels in 34 games last year, the left-shot winger has been a staple in the Rebels lineup this season.
Through 48 games though, the numbers aren’t eye-popping. His six goals and eight assists in 48 games aren’t going to wow anyone and aren’t leading to any NHL Draft buzz.
Melin said he simply tries not to get caught up in all of that.
“It’s had ups and downs, like every season. I’ve been getting in the lineup and playing a bigger role. Just the big thing is keeping my game consistent and playing the right way, playing my style every game,” he said.
As the six-foot-three, 195-pound forward continues to stick in the lineup night after night, it is the intangibles that have allowed him to be a valuable member of the forward group.
He hits, he forechecks and wins battles along the wall with his size– just some of the things that Rebels assistant coach Brad Flynn said the team is getting from Melin this season.
“We expect Dallon to be heavy, very strong on the boards and get pucks out and in deep, playing physical and playing (with) that power forward mentality,” Flynn said.
“A big strong guy like that, it’s hard to build confidence because you can’t go to the stat sheet and see a number. Those are going to come and go… you get your success off creating momentum and limiting offensive chances and how much time you’re playing in the other team’s zone, that’s what is generating momentum for your team.”
Flynn, along with the rest the coaching staff believe that it will take Melin longer to polish his game as a power forward, compared to a more skilled player at the position.
The Rebels assistant pointed to Calgary Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic, who at six-foot-three and 220-pounds, is a force in his 20-year-old WHL season. Kastelic was also a bit slow to develop in his early days in the WHL.
“He’s probably the physically strongest guy in the league and when Dallon Melin grows into his strength, he will be dominant and he’ll get his points then. But if he doesn’t learn how to win battles now and get pucks out he’ll never be on the ice to get that chance,” Flynn said.
Melin knows to reach those levels, he needs to work on his foot speed. The winger is still growing into his six-foot-three frame and considering he had size 12 feet at 14, there’s no surprise the speed is still playing catchup.
“I really have to work on my skating, especially towards the end of the season and going into the summer. I have to change some things in my training, work on a lot more foot speed,” said the teen, who plans on altering his training regime this summer to get faster.
The Rebels welcome the Hurricanes to town Wednesday, who are 7-2-1-0 in the last 10 and have beat Red Deer four out five times this season. Containing Dylan Cozens and Oliver Okuliar, who have 60 and 54 points respectively this season, will be a tall task.
“We have to be really hard on their top players. They have some really good players upfront and on their backend. Last time we played them we gave them a good run,” Melin said.
“We just have to stay focused for the full 60 and I think we’ll have a good chance to beat them.”
Puck drop is 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Centrium.
Hurricanes vs. Rebels, Wednesday, 7 p.m., Centrium:
The Hurricanes are 30-12-2-5 on the year and sit second in the Central Division and Eastern Conference. Defenceman Alex Cotton leads all WHL blueliners with 15 goals and 37 points, while Calen Addison is sixth (8G, 32A). Former Rebel Brett Davis has five goals and two assists since joining the ‘Canes.
The Lethbridge goaltending duo has also been solid, as Carl Tetachuk sports 2.49 goals against average and 0.912 save percentage, while Bryan Thompson is 13-4-1 with a 2.69 GAA and 0.904 SV%. The Hurricanes power play is 23.1 per cent on the year, good for seventh in the league.
The penalty kill is 78.1 per cent, 13th in the WHL. The Rebels have the 20th ranked PP at 15.9 per cent and 19th ranked penalty kill at 76.2 per cent. Kyle Masters is day-to-day for the Rebels with a lower-body injury and Chase Leslie is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.