This August marks five years since a floppy-haired, undersized forward from Imperial, Missouri first walked into Affton Ice Rink to play his first junior hockey game. Later this year, he’ll arrive at Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan a bit bigger, a bit more clean-cut, and ready to begin his junior season of hockey with the Ferris State Bulldogs of the WCHA. But while the scenery may have changed a fair bit from his days in the NA3HL, the lessons Frankie Melton learned with the St. Louis Jr. Blues have stayed with him as he has risen to NCAA Division I.
Jr. Blues head coach Chris Flaugher had seen Melton play all through his youth hockey career with the Affton Americans, and even as a pee-wee he saw that the left-handed forward had something special. “The word I’d use to describe how Frankie plays is ‘electric’,” Flaugher said. “He could start an offensive chance from just about anywhere on the ice. When I was putting together my roster for 2014 he was kind of my dream “get”, and lucky for us he ended up joining that team.”
Melton was equally excited to pit his wits “against older guys, switching from youth AAA hockey to playing big-boy hockey,” and once on the Jr. Blues, Melton failed to disappoint, scoring 25 points in 20 NA3HL games and earning a call-up to Corpus Christi in the NAHL.
Being a 17-year old high school student, Frankie “obviously didn’t expect to get that call, but it was my goal. It was Chris’ goal for everyone as well, and it was one of the reasons I came [to the Jr. Blues].” However, Melton’s scoring touch did not translate with the IceRays and he was cut from their list at the end of the season.
Frankie believes that his year in Texas was arguably the most important of his hockey career, because he found out that “you can’t get too comfortable anywhere and everyone’s replaceable. Obviously I got cut that summer, but I didn’t give up and kept working.” Back with the Jr. Blues in 2015-16, Melton re-dedicated himself to become a top talent, again scoring at will but also taking more of a leadership role off-ice. Once again this attracted the attention of a NAHL club, namely the Bismarck Bobcats, but once again he could not replicate his scoring form and left the club after the end of the season.
Luckily, he found a landing spot with the expansion Shreveport Mudbugs, where “I came in with a bit of a chip on my shoulder: previously I felt I wasn’t getting the roles that I thought I deserved, and I was lucky to have a coaching staff at Shreveport who gave me opportunities and it all worked out.” One NAHL goal-scoring crown later, Melton reached his goal and signed a letter of intent with Ferris State.
Throughout this entire time, Melton was in constant contact with Flaugher to discuss his hockey future. “We talked regularly about how he was playing, how best to proceed in his hockey career, and how to make the best of the chances he was given. I’m proud of the rapport I’ve been able to build with my alumni, and Frankie was no exception,” said the coach.
Arriving in Big Rapids, Melton credited his junior experience with helping him adapt quicker to college hockey, which he belives is “different but the same….Everyone’s bigger, faster, stronger, the pace is quicker, but when you get down to it it’s still the same game of hockey, and I myself have to get bigger, faster, stronger to succeed.”
As Frankie begins his second collegiate season, Flaugher is confident that his former charge will once again continue his improvement. “If you look at the way his career’s gone, once Frankie gets bedded in with a team—whether it’s the NA3HL, NAHL or Division I—his confidence really shows through and he can show his talent. We at the Jr. Blues are extremely proud of the fact that he was able to start his road to Ferris State with us, and we know he’ll have a great junior season.”