Weight: 192 lbs.
Current Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Central Scouting Ranking: 23 (North America)
ISS Ranking: 19
If you are looking for a player who can really put up points, Nick Merkley is your guy. He dominated the WHL, scoring more than a point a game in both the regular season and the playoffs. He lead the Kelowna Rockets in scoring with 90 points (20+70) and was sixth in the WHL. His Rockets won the WHL Championship, and made it all the way to the Memorial Cup finals.
He took a huge step forward from his first year of juniors, which is really saying something. He was the WHL Rookie of the Year, totaling 25 goals and 33 assists in 66 games. He began showing his incredible power play skills, not surprising for a player who puts up the kind of points that he does.
Following his rookie season, he trained in the summer with Jordan Eberle and Mike Green.
Merkley is a bit of a luxury pick. He's not huge, he's not the best skater, but he has incredible play making ability that would be incredibly useful on this Sabres team. The Sabres have their size with Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Zemgus Girgensons. They can handle a few on the smaller end. If Tyler Johnson has shown us anything this playoff, that doesn't always hold you back. He may be another center, but he's a guy you really want to have in your system.
Whether Merkley will still be available at 21 is the real question. He's a player that would likely be snatched up way earlier in most drafts, so he has slid down to around the Sabres pick in many mock drafts. He's a bit polarizing, slotting in anywhere from a mid-teens pick to somewhere in the 20s. Where ever he goes, that team is likely getting an incredibly talented player.
What They're Saying
"A playmaking center that has an excellent eye for the game; sees the ice like a hawk from above. Creates scoring chances and on-ice energy through taking advantage of puck-possession and making the most of turnovers. Incredible work ethic; will battle against larger players and isn't afraid to do the dirty work in front of the net. Does not possess the largest frame or a dynamic level of skating; however, he does boast a remarkably high level of Hockey-IQ and a deep understanding of the game. There is something left to be desired having observed his individual skills, such as puckhandling, footspeed, and decision-making, for a prolonged period of time; there is definitely room for improvement in the small areas of his game. All-in-all, Merkley brings a medley of skill, smarts, and work ethic to the table, making him an invaluable asset as a Center."
-Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
"He's a highly competitive player with excellent skill and offensive hockey sense. He's more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but he has the ability to score big goals at the right time."
-Dan Marr, Director of Central 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."
-Craig Button, TSN
"A gritty creator and all-around offensive catalyst, Merkley’s pure offensive sense is among the tops in the class... Merkley plays with a consistent work ethic and fearless, energetic edge that often sees him flying around, initiating contact and ultimately gaining possession of the puck. He counters his lack of imposing size by competing toe-to-toe with all comers, all over the ice."
-Kris Baker, Sabres Prospects
"Playing on the top line for a potent Kelowna team that was among the best in the CHL this season, Merkley heloed line-made Rourke Chartier double his goal total to 48, third in the WHL. 'Really smart guy who is strong on the puck,' said another scout. 'Good in the tight areas. More of a setup guy and a playmaker. Knows the game."
-The Hockey News