The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a one-year entry level contract, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. He is expected to arrive in Columbus after immigration protocols are completed.
Merzlikins, 24, posted a 22-18-0 record with a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA), .921 save percentage (SV%) and a career-high five shutouts in 43 games with Lugano of the Swiss National League (NLA) in 2018-19. He finished the campaign ranked second-T in the league in wins, third-T in shutouts, fourth in save percentage and eighth in goals-against average.
"Elvis Merzlikins is a big, athletic goaltender who has performed at a very high level in the Swiss League with Lugano and is ready to take the next step in his career," said Kekalainen. "We think he is the best goaltender outside of the NHL right now and are excited about his future with our organization."
A native of Riga, Latvia, Merzlikins registered a 105-79-7 record with a 2.63 GAA, .920 SV% and 15 shutouts in 210 career NLA games with Lugano. In 2017-18, he captured his second Jacques Plante Trophy as the league's Goaltender of the Year after finishing third-T in the NLA in shutouts, fourth in wins and fifth in SV% with a 19-15-1 record, 2.72 GAA, .921 SV% and four shutouts in 40 contests. He won his first Jacques Plante Trophy in 2015-16 after leading the league in saves (1,484) and ranking second in SV% and fifth in wins with a 23-13-4 record, 2.76 GAA, .922 SV% and a shutout in 44 contests.
READ MORE: Elvis Merzlikins named Latvian Hockey Player of the Year
The 6-3, 187-pound netminder has represented Latvia in several international tournaments. He was named a top three player for his country at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 IIHF World Championships. In the 2018 tournament, he posted a 1.50 GAA and .940 SV% in six contests. He was selected by the Blue Jackets in the third round, 76th overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft.