Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley enjoyed the benefit of an extended season, helping his WHL club to the Memorial Cup final. Merkley’s post-season performance has turned some heads, and he stands a chance at climbing the draft for his efforts.
A playmaker who has been heralded for his hockey-IQ, Merkley might not be around late in the first round as initially projected.
Here’s what you need to know about Nick Merkley.
Age on June 26: 18
Position: Right wing
Weight: 191 pounds
From: Calgary, Alberta
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): 23rd
Marek's Take: Possesses a unique skill set – playmaking winger. Can finish (as we saw a couple of highlight goals at the Memorial Cup) but his main weapon is finding teammates' sticks. Some consider him a little smallish but has real good strength that allows him to maneuver around bigger bodies. Comparable: A smaller Corey Perry
He's a magician...
Merkley captured WHL Rookie of the Year honours in 2013-14 with a 25-goal, 58-point performance while playing centre. He effectively made a permanent move to right wing this past season once Leon Draisaitl arrived from the Edmonton Oilers.
He responded with an outstanding 20-goal, 90-point effort while playing on the wing. Wherever he lines up, his playmaking vision is practically unmatched.
“He makes plays and you sit there going, ‘Wow, how did he know that guy was there?’" Rockets head coach Dan Lambert told Sportsnet's Kristina Rutherford.
It's like the puck has eyes...
The Draisaitl effect is overstated...
There's no doubt that 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl certainly gave Merkley and the Rockets a boost, but any claims that Merkley may have rode his teammates' coattails simply miss the mark.
Merkley totalled 61 points in 40 games prior to Draisaitl's arrival, and he notched 29 points in 32 games with Draisaitl.
Extending his presence...
Merkley recognizes that his size could present some challenges in the NHL where grown men take the place of teenagers.
A season of facing the WHL's best competition has helped Merkley redefine his game and use the entire offensive zone to his advantage.
“Scoring from further out is my biggest thing right now,” Merkley said this past November. “At the next level you don’t get many chances in tight. I think just having the strength to score from the tops of the circles is something I need to work on.”