No matter who you talked to this weekend, the message was the same: Jay Meloff was one of the guys both coaches and management had their eyes on. He went into the free agent camp confident that, if he played his game, he'd turn some heads, and that's exactly what happened.
Despite three days of grueling schedules that saw multiple games each day, coupled with off-ice evaluation, Jay showed that he could compete at a high level. He played important minutes and was one of the go-to defensemen his coaches turned to in situations where a solid blueline presence was essential. An All-Star game on Sunday saw the intensity of play amp up significantly, yet Jay remained a calming influence on the ice, communicating well with his teammates and controlling the play with his on-ice vision and composure.
That's not to say training camp in October is a slam dunk for Jay. According to Assistant General Manager/Director of Hockey Operations Brent Cullaton, there are five or six spots available for the Cutthroats' inaugural season. The remaining positions are occupied by players who have already been signed or are in negotiations with the team. Moreover, Cullaton admitted competition is tight on defense. "We're pretty good on the back end," Cullaton said when asked about Jay's chances. "It's going to be tough, but I was impressed with the way he played."
Head Coach Derek Armstrong echoed Cullaton's comments on Jay. "He's on one of our short lists for sure," he said. "(Jay's) a great skater, has a good first pass." He also mentioned something Jay was critical of in his own game: being too fancy with the puck at times. But there was no hesitation in saying that he's a good, skilled player that fits the mold of what they want for the Cutthroats. One trait is something Jay has in spades. "We're trying to be a character organization," Armstrong said. "It's hard to find guys with (that kind of) character."
The final decisions on who will be back in Denver in October have yet to be made. At the conclusion of the All Star Game on Sunday, guest coaches for each team—Ben Guite, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, and Aaron McKenzie, the team's first signed player—passed on their list of suggestions to Cullaton. There were also numerous scouts and representatives from various hockey organizations present all weekend at the bequest of the Cutthroats front office. The evaluations of these players were in depth, and there's little doubt that whoever is chosen for training camp will be among peers.
Jay is hopeful that he'll be one of those five or six players. He's also realistic. He understands that it all comes down to the final evaluation of his talent. "I think I have a decent chance," he said, "if they've seen what I know I have."