Is it too soon to get excited about the 2018 draft? Because Ryan Merkley might have some people really excited about the 2018 draft.
The 16-year-old defenseman is in his first season in major junior after being selected first-overall by the OHL’s Guelph Storm, and it’s not even halfway through the campaign and already Merkley is scoring goals that showcase his incredible talent.
During Sunday’s contest between the Storm and Kingston Frontenacs, Merkley received a pass on the blueline before potting what is easily one of the nicest goals you’ll see for the rest of the season. It started with a spin move to his backhand side, continued with a quick fake around one check, a toe-drag past another and then the patience to find a hole to fire the puck in.
It’s worth the reminder that what you’re about to see is coming off the stick of a 16-year-old defenseman. Take a look:
That’s a special play, but it’s almost unsurprising given Merkley is already nearly a point-per-game rearguard in his first season in the league. This is a player who, just last season, managed seven goals and 44 points in 33 games at the minor midget level, so to say he’s already showing some significant growth would almost be an understatement.
If Merkley had stopped putting points on the board after his gorgeous goal, that alone would have been enough to deserve some high praise following Sunday’s game, but he also played a part in deciding the outcome of the contest. He picked up the primary assist on the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and after Kingston scored to even the score with just minutes remaining in the game, it was Merkley who would end up sealing the game in overtime.
The extra frame was only 15 seconds old when Merkley made a rink-wide pass to a streaking Giovani Smith, and Merkley, following the play, wound up netting the winner after Smith’s shot was turned aside to cap a two-goal, three-point game.
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