Prospect Profile: Ryan Merkley
Birthplace: Oakville, ON
Ryan Merkley has played for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League for 2 seasons. He was selected 1st overall in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection as a 15-year-old. If Merkley continues to produce, he could be the most dominant defenceman in the O since Ryan Ellis. He was ranked as an “A” player in the NHL’s Player to Watch List. Expect to hear his name called in the middle of the first round, possibly being the first Canadian defenceman to be drafted in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Ryan Merkley may be considered a “steal in the draft”. If he falls in the draft he could be the next Jacob Chychrun, having the same impact in the OHL if not better. Ryan is a dynamic offensive defenceman. He does everything well. He is a terrific skater and has a very powerful first stride which makes him hard to catch. Merkley also passes the puck without mistakes. He can carry the puck up ice as well as make a great first pass. The only downside to Merkley is his defensive play, often being caught puck chasing and his size. If Merkley can get stronger over the next few years to handle the bigger forwards, and play in both the offensive and defensive zones, Merkley could be a very successful NHL defenceman.
His OHL Career:
2016-17: In his first year in the OHL, Ryan Merkley did stuff one could do in an NHL video game. The GTHL Player of the Year had an outstanding rookie season. Merkley recorded his first OHL point in his first game, an assist against Saginaw. On the 8th of October Merkley recorded 3 assists against Hamilton and 2 days later he went on to score his first OHL goal against the Kitchener Rangers. On an international level, he played in the World Under-17 Challenge for Canada Red and in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Although he left the tournament medal-less, he scored 2 goals in the tourney. Merkley finished his rookie season with 12 goals and 43 assists. The only downfall with his season was he finished with a -41, on a Storm team that finished 2nd last in the O. Merkley’s play surely didn’t go unnoticed. He was voted the 3rd best playmaker in the Western Conference in the Coaches Poll, 3rd best stick handler, and went on to win Rookie of the Year.
Ryan Merkley continues to impress in his second season. He is 10 points shy of matching his 55 points in his rookie season, however he has done it in 23 games less than last year. Merkley is on a very good defensive core in Guelph this year, featuring Captain Garrett McFadden, Dmitri Samorukov and, the defenceman selected below him in the draft, Owen Lalonde, who was selected 2nd overall in the 2016 OHL Draft. With the Storm currently sitting 7th in the West, and only 5 points behind Windsor for 4th, the defensive core, led by Merkley will be crucial if fans will get to watch playoff hockey at the Sleeman Centre.
Ryan Merkley has played in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and the U 17’s, and he isn’t done yet. On January 25th Merkley will play in front of his home fans and NHL Scouts in the Sherwin Williams CHL Top Prospects game, which features the CHL’s best players who will be selected in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. However, the draft may not be the last time you hear his name. If Merkley works on his defensive game there is a strong chance he will get an invite to represent Canada’s National World Junior team next year.