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2015 NHL Draft Prospect Profile #31 – Nick Merkley

Nick Merkley

Position: Center
Current Team: Kelowna Rockets, WHL
Date of Birth: May 23, 1997
Place of Birth: Calgary, Alberta
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 187 lbs
Shoots: Right

Nick Merkley is one of those guys that would probably be in the top half of a “normal” first round of the NHL draft. In a year such as this, he’s a bit further down the list. A big limitation for Merkley is his size, which is short. He makes up for a lack of height with a bit more girth and strength, though that will get mitigated at the next level where *everyone* is stronger. That said, Merkley has a knack for finding space and dropping passes onto the sticks of his teammates from any and everywhere, evidenced by his 92 assists in 91 combined regular and post season WHL games this year.

Scouting Reports

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

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.

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. – Shawn Reznik, The Hockey Writers

Undersized “Dub” centre/forward with good all around skills and edge. A good skater who can turn into the middle and dish. Very good player from behind the net, whose speed gives him opportunities as he comes out. Started the 2014-15 season with league leading point / assist totals. Shorter but very thick. Very willing to get froggy for his team when they are down in a contest and they need some physical. His fireplug frame gives strong body contact and also absorbs the ones returned. A player we will be watching. – Bill Placzek, DraftSite.com

A Good Fit in Columbus?

As we’ve documented many times, center is one of the biggest areas of depth currently in the system right now, and with Alexander Wennberg starting to find his game to with with Ryan Johansen and Brandon Dubinsky, there’s not an immediate future at center for a guy like Merkley. That said, were he to fall to the early second round–and he might, based on his size–he’d be worth a look. You can never have enough good center depth, and as good a passer as Merkley is…

Merkley In Action