Nick Merkley (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
The Kelowna Rockets right winger is leading the Western League in scoring, while keeping up a friendly rivalry with his older brother in Swift Current. Learn about him and nine more prospects in our weekly wrap.
The CHL-Russia Super Series kicked off in Saskatoon Monday night and the visitors continued their hot streak by winning 3-2 in a shootout over the Western League’s squad. The six-game showdown usually starts in Quebec and goes West, but things are flipped this time and will be interesting to see if that affects the results at all. In other news, top 2015 Swedish prospect Oliver Kylington was loaned out to AIK in the country’s second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, where he will get more playing time. Here’s a look at some of the other youngsters we’re keeping an eye on.
Nick Merkley, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Teenagers are funny. Merkley knows he should eat better, but can’t help but hit up Oreo ice cream sandwiches when he’s back from road trips. The “Friday Night Lights” fan says he likes the straight-laced Matt Saracen, but also admits that bad boy Tim Riggins was a pretty good character too. But when you’re the top scorer in the league on a team that is 17-1-1, who can question your dessert and TV inspirations?
Merkley, who can play center or wing, has rung up 34 points on a dominating line with San Jose pick Rourke Chartier in the middle and Tyrell Goulborne on the left side.
“We’re three dynamic players,” Merkley said. “My vision is the biggest thing for me, Chartier has been scoring quite a bit and Goulborne brings that physical element that creates space for us.”
A gold medal winner with Canada at the summer Ivan Hlinka tourney, Merkley was the Dub’s rookie of the year last season and has upped his game as a sophomore, combining that playmaking vision with an iron will on the ice. The Calgary native pins a lot of his success on older brother Jay Merkley, who also got off to a hot start with Swift Current before a bout of mono laid him low recently. Still, it’s been fun for the siblings when they have squared off.
“You’re kinda hoping he does well, but at the same time you want to win,” Nick said. “And you get to chirp a bit out there.”
The younger Merkley isn’t huge (almost 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds), but packs such an offensive wallop that he will likely go in the first round of the draft this summer. He still wants to work on his skating and he has a specific plan for shoring up another part of his game:
“It’s the little things, like scoring from further out,” he said. “At the next level, you don’t get as many chances in tight or on breakaways, so I have to shoot from the top of the circle more.”
So he’s doing his homework. That’s gotta be worth an occasional ice cream sandwich, right? Draft eligible in 2015.
Teddy Blueger, C – Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (WCHA)
The Latvian national notched his first college hat trick on the weekend in a win over Bemidji State, popping in two from the point on the power play and getting a greasy one in tight. Blueger brings a nice combination of skill and grit to the Mavs and has 10 points in 10 games. Drafted 52nd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Filip Ahl, LW – HV71 (Swe.)
A powerful winger who bulls his way into scoring areas with his impressive 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame, Ahl has put up nine goals and 22 points in 17 games for HV 71’s junior squad so far. The left winger is also a responsible player with a great stride. Draft eligible in 2015.
Mark McNeill, C – Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
The powerful center had a tough rookie season in pro due to consistency issues, but has rebounded as a sophomore and sits fourth in American League scoring with nine goals and 15 points in 13 games. The reigning Player of the Week can really move and handle the puck for a big guy. Drafted 18th overall by Chicago in 2011.
Jordan Subban, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
The Bulls have been a pleasant surprise this season, even playing through an ongoing arena controversy. But it doesn’t seem to matter where Subban is skating, because the quick offensive blueliner has been putting up numbers all over the place with 10 goals and 22 points in 18 games to lead all OHL defensemen. Drafted 115th overall by Vancouver in 2013.
Nikita Scherbak, LW – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
He came out of nowhere last season and in some ways, Scherbak is still proving himself. Getting in reps with the Russians at the Super Series will give the left winger a chance to make a case for the world junior team, but the smart and talented winger has been on fire with six points in his past three games. Drafted 26th overall by Montreal in 2014.
Nicolas Meloche, D – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
A big, physical defenseman who disposes of opponents along the boards with great malice, Meloche can also contribute at the other end of the ice. In fact, his 18 points through 22 games ranks third among all blueliners in the ‘Q.’ Draft eligible in 2015.
David Kase, C – Pirati Khomutov (Cze.)
Fast, fearless and skilled, Kase is playing back home against men in the Czech Republic’s second-best league. The younger brother of Ducks pick Ondrej Kase, David was the captain of the Czech squad at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in the summer and has posted nine points in 20 games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Igor Shesterkin, G – SKA Kareliya (Rus.)
An unorthodox goalie who put in a lot of work in Russia’s win over the WHL Monday night, Shesterkin has also been playing quite well against men in Russia’s VHL, one rung below the Kontinental League. He’s rocking a .943 save percentage and 1.72 goals-against average for the last-place team. Drafted 118th overall by the New York Rangers in 2014.
Jack Roslovic, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Swift and skilled with great hands, Roslovic did his part as the Americans tore apart several European national squads at a Four Nations tourney in Sweden on the weekend. The Miami University commit netted seven points in the last three games of the tourney, including a hat trick against Switzerland. Draft eligible in 2015.