Today is a huge day for prospects fans around the globe as the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship gets underway. There was some news outside of Edmonton, starting with the New Jersey Devils inking a first-round pick to his first NHL contract. Also, we get an update on an injured Montreal Canadiens prospect and a recent Vancouver Canucks’ draft pick has himself a merry little Christmas.
Mercer Signs Entry-Level Deal
Santa Claus came a bit early for Dawson Mercer on Thursday as he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Devils. He was drafted with the 18th overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He was one of three first-round picks for the Devils this year, joining Alexander Holtz (seventh overall) and Shakir Mukhamadullin (20th overall). He is the first of the trio to be signed to a professional soundtrack.
Mercer is getting ready to represent Canada at the World Junior Championship. Prior to heading to the bubble in Edmonton, he had four goals and seven points in five Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) games for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
He split last season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi, scoring 24 goals and 60 points in 42 combined games. He also was a part of Canada’s gold medal win at the 2020 World Junior Championship. He played in all seven tournament games but did not find his way onto the scoresheet.
“It’s really exciting, obviously, at its another step towards my goals,” Mercer said about signing with the Devils. “To finally have it coming here on Christmas is a pretty nice gift for me and my family. The draft was one thing and getting signed is another. The next step is getting there and getting started with the organization.”
Mercer and Team Canada begin their quest for back-to-back WJC gold medals against Germany on Saturday.
Norlinder Still Needs a Few Days
Last week, Mattias Norlinder left Frolunda HC’s game with an apparent knee injury. The young defenseman was holding his own in Sweden’s top professional league before hurting himself. He said after the game that the injury could have been worse and that appears to be the case.
According to Frolunda head coach Roger Rönnberg, Norlinder will need another week before he can begin skating again. Once he gets on the ice, we will likely get a better idea of when he can make his return to the lineup.
The Canadiens drafted the 20-year-old defenseman in the third round (64th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Norlinder is touted for being a great skater with good offensive instincts. He has a good shot and makes excellent passes but still needs to work on his play within the defensive zone. He has two goals and four points in 20 games this season while averaging nearly 17 minutes per night.
Zlodeyev Lights the Lamp
There wasn’t a ton of fanfare when the Canucks selected Russian center Dmitri Zlodeyev in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. In his draft year, he had 12 goals and 28 points for MHK Dynamo Moskva of the MHL, Russia’s top junior league.
His 2020-21 season has gotten off to a very good start. After starting in the MHL, he was promoted to the VHL, which is Russia’s equivalent to the American Hockey League (AHL). He scored his fourth goal of the season to help Dynamo Krasnogorsk to a 3-1 win on Christmas Day.
Zlodeyev now has four goals in 14 VHL games to go along with four goals and 12 points in 15 MHL games. He could turn out to be a steal for the Canucks if he continues to progress. He has great vision and a good shot, so he can set up his teammates or finish the play himself. Scouts are high on his overall two-way game and he has been very strong at the faceoff dot throughout his career.