Welcome to the tenth day of our Top 25 Under 25 countdown here at The Cannon! Thanks to the more than 120 of you who participated in our reader poll. Throughout the month of August, we’ll reveal a new player each weekday based on your ranking.
#16 Elvis Merzlikins
16th out of 55 eligible players (789 points)
Highest placement: #4 (1 ballot)
Most common placement: #16 (11 ballots)
Birthdate: April 13, 1994
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Weight: 187 lbs
Acquired: Drafted by Columbus in Round 3 of the 2014 draft (#76 overall)
Elvis Merzlikins is the future of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the goaltender position. At the tender age of 24, the Latvian wunderkind posted a 2.72 goals against average and a .921 SV% en route to winning goaltender of the year in the Swedish Hockey League. Merzlikins is outstanding playing positional hockey, makes big saves, and has proven at a young age that he is capable of leading a team. He is the heir apparent to Sergei Bobrovsky, and may replace him sooner rather than later.
A scouting report on Merzlikins’ play follows (via Elite Prospects):
Elvis Merzlikins is a very athletic butterfly-Goaltender who is well sized and covers a lot of the net. He loves to challenge shooters and never gives up on a shot. Despite his decent reflexes, he is a goaltender who lets the puck hit him and control the rebounds. Needs to play a more composed game, as he tends to overplay certain situations. Handles the puck very well, as Elvis Merzlikins is a respectable stickhandler and can play long outlet passes. (by Rafik Soliman, April 2014)
Merzlikins has set himself up well to potentially be the Blue Jackets replacement in net. It remains to be seen, however, when he will come over to North America - the contract situation of Sergei Bobrovsky complicates matters.
Elvis will spend one more season in the Switzerland playing for HC Lugano. After that, his contract will expire and he will be free to make his move to North America. It remains unclear if he will make the move, however, as he is reluctant to come over and back up Sergei Bobrovsky.
Merzlikins wants playing time, and backing up Sergei Bobrovsky is not ideal for Merzlikins. There will be tough decisions to make at the goaltender position next summer. In the meantime, Merzlikins will look to defend his Goaltender of the Year Award in the NLA, Switzerland’s top league.