SAN JOSE – In the days leading up to last week’s NHL trade deadline, the speculation regarding what the Sharks might do centered around them adding a forward and potentially a more experienced backup goalie. There was virtually no thought that they would look for someone to bolster their blue line, which has been the strength of the team since opening night.
Dylan DeMelo’s development over the last few years in the organization is a big part of the reason why. He’s shown his value in the last two games, in particular, seamlessly filling in for an injured David Schlemko despite missing nearly two months with a broken wrist.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer was effusive in his praise of the 23-year-old.
“Excellent. I can’t tell you how hard that is to sit for [two months] and then step in against Minnesota and Winnipeg, desperate teams at this time of the year,” DeBoer said. “[He’s been] fantastic. Played great minutes for us, made very few mistakes.”
DeMelo played 16:12 against Minnesota on March 5 with an even rating, in what was his first game since he suffered the right wrist injury on Jan. 10 in Edmonton. On Monday, he had one shot and was a plus-one in 13:18 against Winnipeg.
He’s been paired with Brenden Dillon, where Schlemko – who is day-to-day with no official timetable to resume skating with a lower body injury – would typically be.
“Those two teams, I didn’t really have a choice but to get into the game right away. It was two tough teams,” DeMelo said. “That being said, it is only two games, so hopefully there’s still a lot more games in the season I can play in. Just try to continue to play the same way.”
The game against Minnesota was a similar to when DeMelo made his season debut on Nov. 23 against Chicago. He was a healthy scratch for the first 19 games, but got into the lineup when Schlemko was a late scratch due to illness and performed admirably.
The game against the powerful Wild was probably more difficult considering the calendar, though.
“This time of the year everybody is gearing up for the playoffs,” DeMelo said. “It’s not like you’re jumping in in November when guys are trying to find their legs and get used to systems. Everyone’s firing on all cylinders.”
DeMelo has also been utilized on the second unit of the power play, as one of the two point men with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. His one goal this season came on the power play against Anaheim on Nov. 26.
“He’s come in pretty easily for a guy that’s been injured for eight weeks, against two very good teams back-to-back, playing really well,” Vlasic said.
As the seventh defenseman last season, DeMelo surprisingly wasn’t needed, as the Sharks were able to dress the same six defensemen for the duration of their run to the Stanley Cup Final. He could be in the same position this season when Schlemko gets back.
Regardless, the Sharks know they’ll have a reliable option no matter how much time DeMelo may be out of the active lineup.
“[It’s] invaluable to have a guy like that,” DeBoer said.