Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com has submitted his annual rankings of the top 30 draft-eligible prospects. Check back each day as we prepare for the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on June 26-27.
|(Photo Credit: Getty Images) |#17 - NICK MERKLEY
Right Wing, Kelowna (WHL)
5’10.5”, 190 lbs.
A gritty creator and all-around offensive catalyst, Merkley’s pure offensive sense is among the tops in the class. The reigning WHL Rookie of the Year upped the ante in his draft year, collecting 20 goals and 90 points as the high-powered Rockets cruised to their first WHL championship since 2008-09.
Merkley, who continued to be a primary hub with 22 helpers in 19 playoff games, boosted his draft value at the Memorial Cup, capturing an additional five points (2+3) as Kelowna came up short with a loss to the Oshawa Generals in the championship game.
Merkley plays with a consistent work ethic and fearless, energetic edge that often sees him flying around, initiating contact and ultimately gaining possession of the puck.
He counters his lack of imposing size by competing toe-to-toe with all comers, all over the ice. This was never more evident than in November, when Merkley commanded the puck with 21 points over the course of a 12-game point streak,
Merkley is a fantastic passer, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he has much to improve on in order to make an impact at the NHL level. He’ll need to become a stronger, more explosive skater.
He wants to shoot the puck more. Of course, he’ll need to get serious about adding to his core strength as well as he prepares to take a run at an NHL roster spot two years from now.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.