The New Jersey Devils have hit the ice as one of the youngest teams in the league this season. Dawson Mercer was drafted by the Devils 18th overall on Oct. 6, 2020, and 365 days later, he was competing for a spot on the opening-night roster. The organization officially released their roster on Oct. 11, 2021, and Mercer’s name was on it.
He earned his first NHL point in his first NHL game, assisting on Andreas Johnsson’s 3rd-period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks. Throughout training camp, the coaching staff and fans have seen what Mercer brings to the ice. During the Devils’ media day, Mercer confidently approached the podium to answers questions. He oozed confidence without coming across as cocky. He is well-spoken and seems like a great addition to the locker room.
I decided to find out more about number 18. After speaking with one of Mercer’s relatives, Colette Dawson, I discovered how important Mercer is to his native community in Newfoundland.
A Role Model in Newfoundland
For 17 years, Mercer has called an ice rink his home away from home. He spent time at The Bay Arena in Bay Robert, Newfoundland, from age two, and throughout his childhood, his father and mother would alternate doing early morning drop off, as Mercer’s skill and love for the game evolved. The 19-year-old now takes time to return to the rink to talk to younger kids.
Colette told me that during the summer, Mercer signed autographs and took pictures at the arena with the kids. He also agreed to go to her daughter Beth’s school to present his 2020 Ice Hockey Junior Championship gold medal for show and tell. As a child, Mercer attended Coley’s Point Primary and was in Mrs. Noseworthy’s class. For him to return years later to the classroom where he sat as a student, with a gold medal around his neck, showed Beth and her classmates that anything is possible if you work for it.
Mercer has shared many memorable moments with the kids around his community, and in return, the town showed their appreciation and support before he suited up for his first NHL game.
“The support is truly amazing. You feel the support from all of Newfoundland,” said Colette. “Everyone wants to see him do well. If you could drive through the town of Bay Roberts right now, you would see that every business has a sign saying ‘Congratulations Dawson, Go Devils Go!'”
Mercer & the Importance of Family
It doesn’t take long to understand how important family is to the newest Devils center. He comes from a competitive hockey family, and Mercer credits them for his on-ice achievements. During an interview on the QMJHL’s Official Youtube channel, his mom, Charlotte, noted that her husband, Craig, was a great hockey player. The patriarch of the family had an opportunity to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate but passed on the opportunity.
“Obviously, I’m the guy out there on the ice playing, but there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that helped me out and help me get here,” said Mercer. “Having them out there is an important thing because we all accomplished this together. That’s a big thing. I am a family guy, and I enjoy having them around and seeing them here, and cherish this moment together.”
Colette explained that Craig has and continues to give his son advice and feedback on his game, as does his coach from Bay Roberts, his uncle Bo Bennett. She also noted that his work ethic comes from his parents and grandparents, who have always been hard-working and supportive of their children.
Arrival in the NHL
Colette remembers Mercer being competitive from a young age. He played both ice hockey and ball hockey, and she described him as an amazing ball hockey player, preferring to play defense. Maybe that’s why he plays such a well-rounded, two-way game. Mercer has always worked hard, and it’s that work ethic that flows deep in his veins that earned him a spot on the Devils’ roster. Like him, his family took it day-by-day, waiting for the official roster to be released before they celebrated his achievement.
“It’s hard to explain, to be honest with you,” said Mercer’s mom, Charlotte. “You’re nervous. You’re excited. You don’t know if it’s real.”
His parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and two cousins traveled to New Jersey to see Mercer’s debut, and a bunch of people back home would be watching the game as well. He made his family’s trip to the US worth it. Watching Friday’s game from the press box, my eyes gravitated toward number 18, and I knew he would get on the scoreboard in some capacity. His assist had his family and fans jumping out of their seats.
The compliments came early in Mercer’s hockey career, and there are surely more to come. Colette remembers Mercer being called ‘the matrix’ in minor hockey because of the way he could manipulate the puck and weave through his opponents. Devils fans and the organization are learning what Newfoundland natives have known for years: Mercer is a talented player who deserves to be in the NHL. His on-ice skills and off-ice character make him the perfect addition for any team, and the Devils are lucky to have him as part of the future of the franchise.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.