Nick Merkley THW Close-Up:
Date of birth: 5/23/1997
Place of birth: Calgary, AB, CAN
Ht: 5’10” Wt: 187 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2015
THW The Next Ones Rankings (February): 9
THW War Room Rankings (March): 21
HockeyProspect.com (February): 16
Last Word On Sports (February): 18
Craig Button (March): 14
CS Final Rankings for North American skaters (January): 13
All season long the Kelowna Rockets have been one of the powerhouses in the entire CHL. Stringing together a record for 53-13-5, Kelowna bolstered their lineup with the acquisitions of Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey at the trade deadline. However, there was another player who emerged as the team’s top point scorer.
Nick Merkley lead the charge on the scoresheet, potting 90 points this season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A 2015 eligible prospect, the Calgary-native has climbed draft rankings as the year progressed and is likely a mid-1st round pick.
As a Flyers writer, I’ve watched almost all of Kelowna’s games, keeping specific tabs on Tyrell Goulbourne, Philadelphia’s 2013 3rd round selection. After watching a few games, I couldn’t help but notice Merkley when he had the puck. Only 5’10”, Nick’s quickness allows him to drag defenders out of position, where he’s able to feather pinpoint passes to his teammates on the rush. He sees the play develop long before it’s actually happened. Merkley senses where his teammates are at all times and is the go-to playmaker on the Rockets.
According to his coaches, his compete level shines through on the ice and in the weightroom. His stick skills were nowhere near as quick as some of the other highly touted prospects, but he seems to get the job done deking around defenders with ease. He also thrives on counter-attacking from defense to offense. When there is a loose puck, he’s on it ASAP and leads the rush the other way.
Defensively, there are aspects of his game that stand out. Merkley shows nice tendencies when using the body, although he’s not large. He’s eager to backcheck and cause turnovers. The 2015 draft is one of the deepest in recent history, and Nick Merkley just adds to that depth.
Where Will He End Up In June:
While Merkley can be picked just outside the top 10, a more reasonable range would be 16-22.
“An offensive forward that makes an impact in the game every time he touches the puck…improved skater this season and possess more jump in his step…not big by any stretch but shows a willingness to throw his weight around…impressive hockey sense and ability to think the game…very creative and crafty with the puck…plays a complete 200-foot game…a strong playmaker with impressive vision and touch on his passes…willing to take the puck to the net…has an effective shot that is quick off his stick. (December 2014)”
“In the mold of a true playmaker, Nick Merkley’s vision, anticipation and imaginative passing abilities are in the top echelon of the draft. Kelowna’s top scoring forward is a very good skater with elusive puck skills and he’s shown to be one of the WHL’s most consistent producers. Blessed with a fantastic motor and relentless work ethic, Merkley has the ability to push the pace of the game and force turnovers on the attack. He doesn’t shy away from traffic and engages physically with one focus on his mind – getting possession of the puck. At times, he overcomplicates the game but his competitive nature and playmaking abilities will ensure he becomes a first round selection. Merkley’s 16 goals and 70 points in 51 games with Kelowna has him ranked among the WHL’s top scorers.”
Brendan Ross – Dobber Sports
“Last season Merkley won the WHL Rookie of the Year award. He is another member of Canada’s 2015 Ivan Hlinka winning squad, and a quick riser on draft boards. After scoring four points in five games in the summer tournament, Merkley has exploded in Kelowna putting up 77 points in 56 games, good for third in WHL scoring. Merkley is a big reason why Kelowna was a WHL favorite even before they bolstered their lineup at the trade deadline. Merkley is currently listed at 5’10” and size is the major knock against him right now. Despite the size, Merkley isn’t afraid to go to the net, and to battle in the dirty areas of the ice. With his excellent balance, and good lower body strength, he is hard to knock off the puck. He’s got excellent offensive skills including superb vision and passing ability; a hard shot and good release; and high-end hockey IQ. Merkley is tenacious in the backcheck and uses his hockey IQ to anticipate plays and create turnovers. He has very good speed and gets the transition game going when he does steal pucks or intercept passes. He could stand to shoot the puck more though, as he has an accurate shot that he just doesn’t use enough. He could stand to add some strength and power though.“
Ben Kerr – Last Word On Sports
Merkley has played for Team Canada twice and won a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. In 11 international games, he has two goals and 7 assists.
Risk: 1/5 Reward: 4/5
2nd line elite playmaker.
Crashes the net
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
More defensive awareness
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive: 8/10 Defensive: 4/10
NHL Player Comparison:
– NHL comparison: Brad Richards
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph