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Moncton Wildcats defenceman James Melindy is headed to the desert.
He leaves for Arizona today to participate in Phoenix Coyotes prospects development camp after being selected in the third round, 88th overall, in the 2012 National Hockey League draft on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Melindy was No. 63 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings. He had 27 points, including nine goals, in 61 games this past season as an 18-year-old sophomore in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
'I had 25 family members with me at the draft,' he said. 'That made it even more special that they were there to share the moment with me. It's tough to put into words the feeling of sitting there in the stadium and hearing your name called out.
'You need to pinch yourself to see if you're in a dream because it is a dream come true to be NHL drafted. This week's camp in Phoenix will be my first time in the desert. I'm told it's 115 to 120 degrees there at this time of year so I guess I better bring my sunblock.' Melindy, a second-round pick in the 2009 QMJHL draft, is 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds. He played two seasons for the Notre Dame Hounds in Saskatchewan and helped them capture the Telus Cup, the Canadian midget AAA championship trophy in 2009-10.
The native of Goulds, N.L. has showed steady improvement during his two QMJHL seasons and he was Moncton's only player claimed in the 2012 NHL draft. He was among the prospects who attended the NHL Combines in Toronto in May and he won an endurance test there.
'Nothing comes easy,' he said when asked about the reward feeling of being NHL drafted. 'Most people don't really see what happens behind the scenes with the training, the meetings you have with coaches and the commitment you have to make to get to this point.
'I think having a strong support network - family, friends, coaches and teammates - is really important. I'm grateful for the people that I have around me. My parents and family members have sacrificed for me. I'm glad I can give something back to them by getting drafted and making them proud.
'This is a stepping stone that gives you an opportunity to attend an NHL camp. The harder work starts from here. I want to keep working hard so that some day hopefully I can crack Phoenix's lineup. I'll make sure I have a big summer of training to get ready for NHL camp.' There were 211 players selected in the 2012 NHL draft.
The Canadian Hockey League accounted for almost 47 per cent of the total with 99 players drafted.
The breakdown is 48 from the Ontario Hockey League, 32 from the Western Hockey League and 19 from the QMJHL.
Moncton has had at least one player selected in 14 of 17 NHL drafts since it joined the QMJHL in 1995-96. The franchise has produced 25 NHL drafted players.
Melindy was the sixth QMJHL product taken in this year's NHL draft. Quebec forward Mikhail Grigorenko went in the first round, 12th overall, to the Buffalo Sabres. Second-round picks were Baie-Comeau forward Raphael Bussieres to the Minnesota Wild, Rouyn-Noranda defenceman Dillon Fournier to the Chicago Blackhawks, Halifax forward Martin Frk to the Detroit Red Wings and Rimouski forward Alexandre Mallet to the Vancouver Canucks.
Fourth-round picks were Blainville-Boisbriand forward Cedric Paquette to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cape Breton defenceman Loic Leduc to the New York Islanders, Chicoutimi defenceman Andrew O'Brien to Chicago and Acadie-Bathurst forward Chrisophe Lalancette to the San Jose Sharks.
Fifth-round picks were Chicoutimi forward Charles Hudon to the Montreal Canadiens, Quebec defenceman Ryan Culkin to the Calgary Flames and Val d'Or goaltender Francois Tremblay to the St.
The sixth round featured four more QMJHL products - Quebec goaltender Francois Brossard to the Ottawa Senators, Gatineau forward Tomas Hyka to the Los Angeles Kings, Val d'Or forward Anton Zlobin to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Rimouski forward Francis Beauvillier to the Florida Panthers.
The QMJHL content was completed in the seventh round with Chicago selecting Victoriaville goaltender Brandon Whitney and Phoenix taking Cape Breton defenceman Justin Hache.
'We knew leading up to the NHL draft that James Melindy was on the radar for a lot of teams,' said Moncton head coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn.
'I felt that he would be a top three round selection.
'Phoenix's chief scout Rick Knickle is from Dartmouth and their regional scout is his brother Gary. They saw James play a lot and I knew they had him fairly high on their list. He's worked hard to get to this point so I'm proud of him. It's a special day for him and his family.' Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle played for Moncton in 2005-06. Phoenix also selected Moncton defenceman Brandon Gormley in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.
'People are going to start calling them the Phoenix Wildcats,' joked Flynn. 'With Yandle, Gormley and Melindy, they could have a real Wildcats flare on their blueline some day.' Moncton's Roman Will was No.
22 in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's ranking of North American goaltenders. He was passed over in the draft, but he should get invited to an NHL camp as a free agent.
'I was very surprised that he didn't get selected,' said Flynn.
'It was a strange draft for goalies.
Michael Houser was a first team OHL all-star, the OHL's Most Valuable Player and he took London to the Memorial Cup final. He wasn't drafted.
'(Saskatoon goalie) Andrey Makarov was so good for Russia at the world junior championship. He was projected to go in the second round and ended up not getting picked. The way the goalies played out in this year's NHL draft really surprised me.'
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