With the exception of the truly elite players, the Western Hockey League is a training ground where refinement is a gradual season by season process.
Red Deer Rebels forward Dallon Melin can attest to that fact as he now takes a regular shift in this, his second WHL season, as compared to playing part-time as a rookie.
“Last year I worked with Lodgy (Rebels skills/assistant coach Erik Lodge) and didn’t play as much,” the 17-year-old said Tuesday. “Now this year I’m learning how to be an everyday player. Last season was kind of baby steps, now I’m getting more opportunity.
“It’s a big adjustment from last year. Finding myself in the lineup every night is a lot different, you have to be ready to go every night. But I have more confidence this season so it’s been good.”
Melin was in the Power Edge Pro program during the summer, a program that focuses on the basic hockey skills.
“I’ve worked on my game lots,” said Melin. “Obviously I had to work on a few things in the offseason, like my foot speed, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that although there’s still a long ways to go.
“I’ve continued to work on my shot and just being consistent, which is the biggest thing — bringing the same game every night.”
Melin, who calls Czar home, played bantam hockey in Lloydminster and Camrose, where he also played at the minor midget level.
He was selected by the Victoria Royals in the second round of the 2017 WHL bantam draft after scoring 23 goals and collecting 62 points with the Camrose Red Wings.
Melin then recorded six goals and 20 points in 27 games as a 15-year-old with the midget AAA Leduc Oil Kings in the 2017-18 season and contributed one assist in three games with the junior A Camrose Kodiaks.
The Royals dealt Melin and a 2019 fifth-round bantam draft pick to the Rebels in September of last year in return for forward Brandon Cutler and a second-round pick.
The six-foot-three, 195-pound winger has recently been skating on an energy line with Ethan Rowland and Jace Isley, a threesome that plays with aggression.
“I’ve been with those two guys lately and I just think we’ve found a way to gel despite being different players with different styles,” said Melin. “But we keep it simple and try to do the right things defensively. And the last little while it’s paid off offensively with a couple goals.”
After scoring once and adding two assists in 34 games last season, Melin has three goals and four helpers in 26 games in the current campaign. While he could certainly develop into a more offensive force in the future, he’s focused on playing a physical style which in turn should create more scoring opportunities.
“I’m a big body and I think playing physical is a big part of my game . . . getting engaged in the games, hitting guys and starting scrums, not being afraid of dropping the gloves,” said Melin.
“It’s a big role. Playing physical like that brings energy to the line and I have two linemates who can skate. If I can get them the puck and make a little room for them it works.”
The Rebels, who host the Moose Jaw Warriors Wednesday, are coming off an overtime win over the Hitmen Sunday in Calgary.
The victory was overdue after dominating Swift Current and Regina in earlier games and coming out on the short end of both contests.
“The hockey gods sometimes don’t work in your favour but we stuck with it in Calgary and got a good win,” said Melin.
The sophomore forward said the Rebels have maintained a positive outlook this season despite holding just a .365 winning percentage.
“It helps that we have a good group of guys,” he said. “We’ve all gelled and lately we’ve been trying to hold each other accountable for what we’re doing.
“I think it’s showing in our play. We’ve been playing a lot better recently.”
Rebels vs. Moose Jaw Warriors
Wednesday, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Warriors took a five-game losing streak into their clash with the host Edmonton Oil Kings Tuesday. Moose Jaw owns a record of 9-12-1-0 and sits fifth in the East Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference . . . C Ryder Korczak and LW Brayden Tracey drive the Warriors’ offence. Korczak had contributed eight goals and 29 points prior to Tuesday while Tracey, a first-round pick — 29th overall — of Anaheim in the 2019 NHL entry draft who has since signed with the Ducks, had 10 goals and 22 points in just 14 games. LW Owen Hardy had sniped nine goals and added four helpers for 13 points . . . No. 1 netminder Adam Evanoff went into Tuesday’s game with impressive numbers — a 2.93 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
Injuries: Moose Jaw — C Cade Hayes (upper body, indefinite). Red Deer — G Ethan Anders (lower body, day-to-day), D Kyle Masters (lower body, week-to-week), RW Jaxsen Wiebe (upper body, day-to-day).
Special teams: Moose Jaw — Power play 20.7 per cent prior to Tuesday, 10th overall; penalty kill 80.3 per cent, 11th. Red Deer — Power play 17.3 per cent, 17th overall; penalty kill 77.9 per cent, 17th.