2015 NHL Draft War Room Profile: Nick Merkley

by Eldon MacDonald (edited by @ChrisRalphTHW)

NHL Draft War Room: Nick Merkley

Ranked #18 – 2015 War Room Final Rankings

Nick Merkley
Nick Merkley: one of the top forwards available for the 2015 NHL Draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
  • Hashtag: #MrClutch
  • Team: #10, Kelowna, WHL
  • Position: Right Wing
  • Shoots: Right
  • Height: 5’11
  • Weight: 191 lb.
  • Born: Calgary, AB, 23-May-97
  • Twitter: @merkdaddy4


Other Rankings

  • 11 – TSN – Craig Button, Top 100, Final
  • 14 – HP – Top 30, Final
  • 15 – McKeens – Top 30, Final
  • 15 – THW – Christopher Ralph, Top 120, Final
  • 17 – FC – Top 30, Final
  • 17 – TSN – Bob McKenzie’s Poll of NHL Scouts, Top 75, Final
  • 19 – ISS – Top 30, Final
  • 25 – NHL Combined – Top 305, Final


THW’s Draft War Room – Nick Merkley, “Mr. Clutch”

Eldon MacDonald, THW:  A few words on Nick Merkley:

Mr. Clutch: Some players step up when a game is on the line. NHL teams covet the players that do. Nick Merkley is likely to be a player coveted by a lot by NHL teams. After all, he was Mr. Clutch in the 2015 WHL playoffs, helping the Kelowna Rockets become WHL champions with a league leading 22 assists. He then followed that up with an All Star performance at the Memorial Cup before his team bowed out to the Oshawa Generals in the title game. Yes, he was indeed Mr. Clutch.

Five Reasons Why Nick Merkley is a Top 20 Pick

  • Clutch – A player you can count on when the games get serious; every team wants one or more.
  • Motor – Energy, passion, determination; his feet are always moving; he is always pressing the opposition.
  • Pest – Feisty, irritating, tenacious, yes, he can be a royal pain and put the opposition off their game.
  • Fearless – Nick plays the game in the manner that my boss drove me to work when I first went to work in Mexico – fearless. (My boss had a 300HP V8 Mustang and always used it to pass on the same blind hill every morning before I got the nerve to drive in Mexican traffic on my own.)
  • Work ethic – Has the work ethic the successful pro players do, always striving to improve.


  • Passing – Elevates the game of those around him with his precision passes and the ability to always locate the open man.
  • Creativity – A strong point, Nick is constantly making plays that most others only dream about.
  • Shooting – Excellent but underutilized one-timer, quick release on his wrist shot.
  • Traffic – Has that Brendan Gallagher mindset of going to the net hard, irritating people and creating havoc. He is built like a tank and has a very, low centre of gravity so he can be very effective in close.
  • Vision – He is like that bald eagle that is always doing grids over my property. I know that eagle is not doing search and rescue. Nick is like that bald eagle in that he seems to see the game from up high and then swoops in for the kill when he sees an opening.


  • Hitting – Likes to throw the big hit.
  • Back checking – Can be relentless hounding the opposition.
  • Turnovers – Loves to create a turnover through his high energy, quick stick and an aggressive pursuit of the puck carrier.

Awards and Achievements

  • 2013-14: Kelowna – WHL Rookie of the Year
  • 2014-15: Team Canada – Gold Medal – Ivan Hlinka Tournament
  • 2014-15: Team Orr – BMO CHL Top Prospects Game
  • 2014-15: Kelowna – 2nd Team All-Star – WHL, Western Conference
  • 2014-15: Kelowna – WHL Champion
  • 2014-15: Kelowna – Most assists (22) – WHL playoffs
  • 2014-15: Kelowna – Memorial Cup All-Star

Improvements to Make – The improvements that I would like to see Nick bring to his game are:

  • Shooting – Shoot more. His shot is good right now so using it more would only elevate his current high-end passing game by giving the opposition more to worry about.
  • Skating – Nick’s skating possesses high-end agility, edges and lateral movement but he does not have premium acceleration or separation speed. Any improvements in this area would greatly enhance his overall game.
  • Defense – Not bad but will need some work to be ready for the next level. It is more an attention to detail plus focus type of thing so I am sure that his coaches will eventually help him elevate his defensive game to his offensive game.

NHL Projection: Nick is a player that seems to bring out the best in those he plays with. For that reason, I believe he will be a success in the NHL, especially when you add his turbo-charged engine, drive to the net, constant irritation and offensive creativity and skills. He played most of this season at right wing but can play centre as well. Bottom line, Nick has the ability to be a top six player in the NHL and that special ability to elevate the players around him may make him attractive to playing with some of the stars of the game.

Draft Placement: Forget about his mid-season slide; forget about his early season success; it’s the playoffs that count. Yes, Nick Merkley was a player that counted in the playoffs. He helped his Kelowna Rockets become WHL Champions with a league leading 22 assists and almost took them to the Memorial Cup before losing in the final game to the Oshawa Generals. Nick, however, was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star team. He was Mr. Clutch.

The above rankings congregate in the mid to late teens, which is where I have him too. Maybe the recent and pleasant memories of his clutch playoff and cup runs could even elevate him a tad higher.

[Related: 2015 NHL Draft Guide: The Next Ones Online Edition]


  • Quote 1: Kelowna Capital News – John Williams, WHL Scout for NHL Central Scouting, “Nick, he’s a highly rated player for us, I saw him play a lot and he’s very consistent. Over time when you see him play, he always does something to help his team. He’s very smart, he has very good vision, makes plays in tight other players don’t. He’s a competitive kid that works at his game and he’s had a heck of a year. What he’s done here (Memorial Cup) will do nothing but help.”
  • Quote 2: TSN – Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting, “Nick has a motor that never stops. He simply doesn’t take kindly to resistance and is always pushing through obstacles. He’s smart and knows how to take full advantage of his skills and combined with his determination, he’s an undeniable force. Can play centre or wing and with improved speed will become even more dangerous and prolific.”
  • Quote 3: Sportsnet – Gare Joyce, “The most significant draft-eligible in Quebec this week, Merkley had to help his stock. Scouts here said that they thought he will fall somewhere between No. 20 and the end of the first round. Maybe. Size does work against him. Still, more than a few of those who will be called in the top couple of dozen can be hard to find on the ice on occasion and that’s seemingly never the case with Merkley. “Pest” doesn’t quite do him justice.”
  • Quote 4: AM 1150 – Regan Bartel, “Nick Merkley’s stock for June’s draft must have taken a turn for the better following his showing at the Memorial Cup. Named an all-star in Quebec City, the 17 year-old never quit…not once. Merkley is a hunter. The Calgary resident takes great pleasure in three things; hunting down pucks, setting up teammates and laying body on an opponent.”
  • Quote 5: Yahoo! Sports Canada – NHL scout, “I can’t see him falling past the 25th pick. Yeah his stats are a bit inflated because of the team he was on and his skating needs a bit of work, but with his offensive skill and the energy he brings on the ice, I think he would be a good pick between 18 and 25. He showed in the playoffs that he’s the type of player that steps up when it counts and every team needs those players.”