The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a two-year contract extension through the 2021-22 National Hockey League season, club General Manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.
Merzlikins, 26, has posted a 13-9-8 record with a 2.35 goals-against average (GAA),.923 save percentage (SV%), five shutouts and 848 saves in 1,816 minutes in 33 contests in 2019-20. He ranks second-T in the NHL in shutouts and fifth in goals-against average and save percentage (minimum 20 games played), while leading all rookie netminders in each of those categories and ranking second in minutes and games played and third in wins.
"We've believed for several years that Elvis Merzlikins was the best goaltender outside the NHL while he was playing in Switzerland and this year he has shown that he has the ability and drive to be a very good goaltender in this league," said Kekalainen. "He is quick, athletic and driven to succeed and we are excited to see what the future holds for Elvis and our hockey club."
The Riga, Latvia native led the NHL in shutouts and ranked second in the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage from December 31 through the pause in the current season on March 12 (minimum 15 games played) with a 13-5-4 record, 1.97 GAA, .935 SV% and five shutouts in 23 appearances. He became the sixth goaltender, and second rookie, since 1929-30 to record five shutouts in a span of eight games when he accomplished the feat between January 11 and February 7 with an 8-0-0 mark, 1.00 GAA, .967 SV% and five shutouts. He collected his first career NHL win on December 31 when he made 36 saves in a 4-1 vs. Florida.
Selected by Columbus in the third round, 76th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft, Merzlikins registered a 105-79-7 record with a 2.63 GAA, .920 SV% and 15 shutouts in 210 career outings with Lugano in the Swiss National League (NLA) from 2013-19. He captured the Jacques Plante Trophy as the league's Goaltender of the Year in the 2015-16 and 2017-18 campaigns. In 2018-19, Merzlikins posted a 22-18-0 record with a 2.44 GAA, .921 SV% and a career-high five shutouts in 43 games with Lugano.
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 and participated in the 2019 tournament. He also played for Latvia at the 2012 and 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships and 2012 IIHF U18 World Championships.