- Kelly Friesen at Buzzing The Net1 day ago
Nick Merkley knows how to exceed expectations. The Kelowna Rockets forward not only won the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award last year, but he also matched Edmonton Oilers top pick Leon Draisaitl’s rookie season stats total with 25 goals and 58 points in 66 games. He has done it again so far this year by possessing the best points-per-game ratio in the league with four goals and 24 points in 13 contests.
“My linemates have really helped me out this year,” says Merkley. “(Rourke) Chartier has done well down the middle and (Tyrell) Goulbourne opens up space for me. I also feel, being in my second year, that I’m a lot more confident. I’m more comfortable out there this year.”
The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Merkley came into this season with a better perspective on what it takes to make it to the pros. He skated alongside Edmonton Oilers star Jordan Eberle and Washington Capitals blueliner Mike Green in the off-season.
“It was nice to get to play with those guys,” says the 17-year-old. “You really see how good they are when you’re on the ice with them and it motivates you to keep on working to get to that level. I never talked to them much, but I took a lot out of that just by seeing them play.”
- Kelly Friesen at Buzzing The Net23 days ago
Even though most of the draft talk is surrounding Erie Otters superstar Connor McDavid and Boston University freshman Jack Eichel, elite talent out of the U.S. and Finland has scouts looking down the road to what the 2016 NHL draft class has to offer.
That’s not to suggest Canada is weak in skill in 2016. Mississauga Steelheads defender Sean Day, Vancouver Giants winger Tyler Benson and Regina Pats centre Sam Steel are just a few prospects that could be top-10 selections if they fulfill their potential. But unlike most of the more recent entry drafts, it seems The Great White North won’t have as many high-end young guns to hang its hat on.
Despite not producing a prospect as highly regarded as Eichel, in 2016 the United States may have its best crop of talent since 2006, which included four top-10 picks (Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo and Peter Mueller). America's elite group of 16-year-old prospects could not only give them bragging rights on the draft floor, but also another gold medal at the world junior championship.
- Kelly Friesen at Buzzing The Net1 mth ago
When Nikita Scherbak inevitably returns to the WHL from the Montreal Canadiens organization, he won’t be heading back to the City of Bridges for a second season. The Saskatoon Blades have announced that they’ve dealt the Russian sniper to the Everett Silvertips.
In their second year of a major retool, the Blades made the right long-term decision to cash in on the 1995-born talent for future assets. Saskatoon acquired a nice return of a 2015 first-round bantam pick, a 2016 second-round bantam pick and 1997-born goalie Nik Amundrud. The Blades are now in good shape for the 2015 draft with two first-round picks (the other being Kootenay's from the Kamloops deal involving Matt Revel) even though former GM Lorne Molleken traded their top pick to the Spokane Chiefs for Collin Valcourt when loading up for the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The addition of Amundrud, which led to the release of overage goalie Troy Trombley, also makes them younger in net.
- Kelly Friesen at Buzzing The Net1 mth ago
Just as in any other year, there is no shortage of uncertainties surrounding the WHL’s 2014-15 season. It seems to all start with the immediate futures of the league’s elite NHL prospects, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
BTN has took a stab at 10 bold predictions surrounding the upcoming season just in time for the opening night's puck drop.
Top quartet of 19-year-old talent sticks in The Show – The writing is on the wall that the NHL is going to steal the WHL’s top 1995-born talent. Prince Albert Raiders superstars Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) and Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets), Edmonton Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) and Kootenay Ice sniper Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) appear to be ready to make an early NHL entrance. They have nothing left to prove at the major junior level and their respective teams seem to have holes for them to fill.
Past the big four, it seems only Everett Silvertips blueliner Mirco Mueller has what it takes to skip out on his 19-year-old season. The Sharks could make room for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Switzerland native if he earns his keep in training camp and pre-season.