At first blush, Ryan Merkley appears to be a tantalizing talent as an offensive defenseman. As you peel away the layers though, you’ll find that it may not be quite as “blue skies” as you may have expected. Born on August 14, 2000 to Kyle and Lauren Merkley, Ryan began his road to the NHL with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Like many, he worked his way through Canada’s hockey scene and was so highly thought of that in the OHL’s 2016 Entry Draft, he went #1 overall to the Guelph Storm. Since then, he’s managed be to a point per game player on the blue line (though he’s basically been a point per game player in every arena where stats are kept) compiling 25 goals and 122 points in 121 games for the Storm.
Widely considered to be amongst the elite names in this draft when it comes to puck skills and skating, he is equally considered to be that concerning from a defensive and character perspective. While I don’t put much stock into +/- rating, a -70 career rating for a kid who scored 125 points in a two span is…well…damn…
In the end, this is a rare offensive talent on the blue line and while those may be more common in present day NHL, he possesses skills that few defensemen possess. This is why he should be a sure fire 1st round target, even if that means the end of first round…say pick 30?!
Future Considerations: 25th
Craig Button (TSN): 26th
As you can see, he’s been an elite producer from the blue line at every stop. What isn’t represented here is the fact that he also continues his production in tournaments as well. The stats are enticing but in general, they don’t paint the whole picture of what this kid can do (or can’t do as it were). He has the ability to single handedly break down a defense with his ability to carry the puck and create scoring chances with vision that seems superhuman at times. As he develops, he appears to have the skillset to be a 50+ point scorer on the blue line and that will largely be aided by the ‘plus-plus’ (to steal a term from baseball) skating, carrying and vision he possesses.
The Eye Test
I’m going to leave this as it is meant to be, you be the judge:
And an inside look at Ryan Merkley…
Fit With The Red Wings
“Merkley has the potential to be classed as a ‘special’ player where size is not relevant. He possesses elite skating and quickness that allow him to make a difference on the play and he plays a very dynamic offensive game which, when combined with good decisions and competitive instincts, often translate well in draft consideration.” – Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting
Ryan Merkley is exactly what the Red Wings need. A high end, high IQ, puck moving defenseman who can create havoc on the ice. The Red Wings too often shy away from players like Merkley because they don’t have character comparable to that of the Pope or may still be able to shop in the boys section; frankly, the farm system shows that. There are far too many, “nice” players, whether that is meant literally or figuratively, they lack any high end talent in the farm system (there may be a couple of exceptions). Ultimately, this kid fits with the Wings spectacularly in two ways: 1) he provides something the Wings lack on the blue line and 2) he won’t be ready for 3-5 years. That will allow Holland (since it seems evident the Wings will never get rid of him) to play his game with prospects without over ripening another prospect. I’d go so far as to say that they should consider moving into the 20-25 range (if needed) to secure this young man’s services.
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