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The 2012 National Hockey League draft is a family affair for Moncton Wildcats defenceman James Melindy.
'I have 25 family members going to Pittsburgh so I'll be well surrounded for support there,' he said. 'It's a pretty big crew of us going down there. There's going to be lots of Newfies there. It's a really exciting time for me and my family. 'There's also a lot of nerves that come with everything that happens leading up to the draft. You're wondering who's going to pick you and in what round. I've tried to keep myself busy so that I don't think about it too much.' Melindy is the 63rd best prospect among North American skaters available in this year's NHL draft which takes place tomorrow and Saturday in Pittsburgh. That's according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings.
The native of Goulds, Nfld. is the top-ranked defenceman from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on the NHL Central Scouting list. He was among the prospects invited to the NHL Combines in Toronto in May and he grabbed more attention there by winning an endurance test.
NHL Central Scouting had Melindy pegged as the 93rd best prospect among North American skaters in its mid-season rankings.
He made a significant jump to No.
63 in the final rankings released at the end of the season.
'It's good for the confidence to move up 30 spots in the rankings, but at the same time it's only a bunch of names on a list,' he said.
'I didn't really think about it too much during the season. I didn't want to put any extra pressure on myself.
'At the end of the day, it all comes down to the draft and what teams are looking for. I don't think the NHL Central Scouting list has too much weight on what teams are going to do in the draft.' 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.
He had 27 points, including nine goals, in 61 games this past season as an 18-year-old sophomore in the QMJHL. He showed big improvement in all parts of the game compared to his rookie season when he had five points in 40 games.
'We're really proud of the progress that he's made,' said Moncton head coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn.
'He's worked hard to hone his game and he's made significant steps during his two seasons here.
'He played a lot of minutes this past season and saw plenty of duty on special teams. When we traded (defencemen) Brandon Gormley and Daniel Milan midway through the season he took on even more responsibility. He played a lot against top lines and it brought out the best in him.
'He tested really well at the NHL Combines and won one of the endurance tests. It underlines the conditioning program we have here with (Wildcats athletic therapist) Graham Black. There's no question that he's on the radar for a lot of teams.' Moncton has had at least one player selected in 13 of 16 NHL drafts since it joined the QMJHL in 1995-96. The franchise has produced 24 NHL drafted players, including left winger Pierre Dagenais who was claimed twice.
Here's the complete list of Moncton players taken in the NHL draft:
1996 - Forward Pierre Dagenais (second round, New Jersey). He didn't sign a contract within the two-year period so he re entered the draft.
1997 - Goaltender Jean-Francois Damphousse (first round, New Jersey).
1998 - Forward Pierre Dagenais (fourth round, New Jersey), forward Morgan Warren (fourth round, Toronto) and forward Jacques Lariviere (sixth round, New Jersey).
1999 - Goaltender Simon Lajeunesse (second round, Ottawa) and forward Mirko Murovic (fourth round, Toronto).
2002 - Defenceman Francois Caron (ninth round, Anaheim) and goaltender Matthew Davis (ninth round, Nashville).
2003 - Forward Steve Bernier (first round, San Jose), goaltender Corey Crawford (second round, Chicago) and defenceman Nathan Saunders (fourth round, Anaheim).
2004 - Forward Bruce Graham (second round, New York Rangers) and forward Martins Karsums (second round, Boston).
2005 - Defenceman Oskars Bartulis (third round, Philadelphia).
2006 - Forward Brad Marchand (third round, Boston), defenceman Andrew MacDonald (sixth round, New York Islanders) and forward Matt Marquardt (seventh round, Columbus).
2007 - Forward Randy Cameron (fifth round, Detroit).
2008 - Defenceman Mark Barberio (sixth round, Tampa Bay).
2009 - Defenceman David Savard (fourth round, Columbus) and goaltender Nicola Riopel (fifth round, Philadelphia).
2010 - Defenceman Brandon Gor mley (first round, Phoenix) and forward Kirill Kabanov (third round, New York Islanders).
Moncton had at least one player selected in nine consecutive NHL drafts, a streak that ended in 2011.
The Wildcats' top hopefuls for the 2012 draft are Melindy and goaltender Roman Will.
Will is No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final list that ranks North American goaltenders.
He was No. 30 in the mid-season rankings.
Melindy will be a top three defenceman for Moncton as a thirdyear veteran next season. After participating in the NHL Combines workouts in late May, the Montreal Canadiens invited him to their mini camp to evaluate prospects in early June.
'I met with 19 teams at the NHL Combines,' he said. 'I think I've been interviewed by 22 teams in total. I'm going through some testing with the Toronto Maple Leafs (today) in Pittsburgh.
'I was a Montreal Canadiens fan growing up so it was exciting to get invited to their evaluation camp.
It was awesome to go there and see their facilities. I've been training a lot since the season ended. It's been a busy time leading up to the NHL draft.'
Neil Hodge is a Times & Transcript sports reporter who covers the Moncton Wildcats.
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