LOS ANGELES – Jonathon Merrill
has never been to New Jersey, but he's eager to become a part of the club's strong defensive tradition.
Merrill, a 6-3, 198-lb. defenseman from the U.S. U-18 team, was the Devils' first pick in 2010, 38th overall, at the Entry Draft on Saturday. Ranked 21st by International Scouting, the two-way blueliner could prove to be a real steal.
"I'm thrilled," Merrill said. "I can't wait to do whatever I can to play there as soon as possible and make an impact on the organization."
The Brighton, Mich., product called his style of play "steady, reliable," adding that he can "chip in offensively." He had a goal and eight assists for nine points in 22 games with the U-18 team under former Lowell Devils head coach Kurt Kleinendorst.
"He's very intelligent on both sides of the puck, makes good decisions, and defensively is good about keeping himself in good position," Kleinendorst said. "There are a lot of things to appreciate about his game, including his size and his dedication in the weight room."
Merrill expects to attend Devils rookie camp next month, where he hopes to work on his strength and shot while "fine-tuning some of the tools in my game." He put on 30 pounds of muscle since joining the U.S. National Development Program and said he, "grew up as a person tremendously."
He thought he had a shot at going in the first round.
"Obviously, you always hope to go as high as you can and be the best you can be, but I'm just happy to be here at the Draft and get drafted at all," he said.
Merrill, who will attend Michigan this fall, grew up a fan of the Red Wings and future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom. He appreciates that he's now a part of one of the NHL's elite organizations.
"New Jersey is a real historic franchise," he said. "They've had a lot of really great players. To be a part of that is phenomenal."