By Ross McLean
In my experience as a scout, I have discovered that having integrity is extremely valuable in developing a respectable opinion and reputation.
Leaving personal feelings aside can be difficult at times. Every now and then you meet a kid who makes a great impression on you, but just doesn't have the skill to justify a pro recommendation, no matter how bad you wish you could.
But every now and then you run across one of those likeable kids who also possesses elite level skill. This isn't to say that the other elite-level players aren't great people as well, but there are certain people who have special qualities.
At this point I think I should warn you, if you have issues with the word "impressive," the next portion of this blog may prove difficult for you to handle.
USA's gold medal at the U-18 World Championship in Belarus was an impressive display by an impressive team filled with impressive prospects.
The most impressive player, in my opinion, just happens to be one of those incredibly impressive people as well. Jon Merrill was Mr. Everything for the US.
A dynamic two-way defender, few players can run a power play as well as Merrill. His ability to use active deception and creates lanes – coupled with his vision and reactions with the puck – make him dangerous in the offensive zone.
Merrill doesn't give up much defensively and has great acceleration and speed to recover in the rare occurrence of a mistake. Confident and poised, Merrill has an incredible panic threshold and makes great plays consistently.
He can still improve his skating stride and overall technical package. Merrill is a first round talent that will likely be a steal no matter what selection he is taken at. Merrill has come a long way since I first met him at the IIHF development camp in the summer of 2007 and it appears as though this is simply just a great beginning for a great player and even better kid.
Ross MacLean is the head of European scouting and part of the management team at International Scouting Services. He specializes in major international tournaments and will cover the U-18s for THN.com throughout the event. Get more information about ISS at isshockey.com or purchase the 2010 NHL Draft Guide HERE.