Elite offensive defenseman with huge offensive upside. Concerns about his character and defensive play make him a bit risky, though.
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October 2020 – With the exception of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, the San Jose sharks blueline for the 20-21 season looks grim. Perhaps fans will get their first look at top prospect Ryan Merkley after all. After struggling in the OHL for a couple of seasons both on the score sheet and in the locker room, a trade to the London Knights sparked a positive change in Merkley’s play and attitude. A year in the AHL with the Barracuda is likely what this youngster needs to prove himself, but perhaps he will surprise us all and do great things at camp this year. Alex Howes
March 2020 – At the beginning of the OHL season, the trade rumors swirling around San Jose’s top defensive prospect may have seemed like a distraction to some. To Ryan Merkley, a trade to the London Knights may have been exactly what the offensively gifted blueliner needed. He has always been an undeniably gifted player with the puck, but his defensive play and character issues have been a huge red flag for many scouts. Merkley has quickly turned things around this season setting career-best offensive and defensive numbers. His 76 points in 60 games this season is second on the team only to forward Connor McMichael, and a plus 20 rating has silenced critics who said he was nothing but a powerplay specialist. Those who questioned his character issues will be happy to hear that London Knights head coach Dale Hunter has been singing Merkley’s praise not only for his on-ice production but for his off-ice leadership as well. Hunter has been quoted saying that Merkley’s humor and attitude in the dressing room are one of the reasons his teammates love him. All of this bodes well for a San Jose Sharks team who are seriously lacking top prospects and could get a real boost from his offensive explosiveness. Fans and fantasy owners should keep a close eye on Merkley at training camp next year, as the Sharks take their second close look at their young talent. Alex Howes
September 2019 – Merkley is trying not to let OHL trade rumors distract him from the task at hand in Sharks training camp. He played well enough during the prospects camp to earn some praise from the Barracuda’s coach Roy Sommer. It wasn’t all praise however, as Sommer also pointed out the obvious: that Merkley’s defensive game needs work. Now taking part in main camp, Merkley looks to be having some difficulty defending against NHL-caliber forwards. Despite the pending OHL trade situation, the OHL is the most likely destination for Merkley once again. Chris Legg
June 2019 – Ryan Merkley ended his season on an amateur tryout with the San Jose Barracuda. He suited up for two regular season games and four playoff games with the Sharks AHL affiliate; he didn’t manage any points during the pro stint. The experience should help Merkley, who has had his work ethic questioned at times. Now he knows exactly what it will take to be successful at the next level. His development path will most likely have him return to junior for his 19-year-old season this fall, where he’ll need to continue to work on his defensive play if he’s going to become a successful NHL defenseman. Chris Legg
April 2019 – Merkley was held to just a single assist during the Petes’ first-round match-up against the Oshawa Generals in the OHL playoffs. Merkley finished the regular season with a whopping 71 points in 63 games, which isn’t really anything new for the talented defenseman. However, his lack of production certainly contributed to an early playoff exit. Merkley will likely play one more year of junior hockey next season, but there’s a chance we could see him sign an amateur tryout contract with the Barracuda to close out the season. Chris Legg
February 2019 – Merkley is up to 59 points in 48 OHL games this season. His scoring pace has actually slowed slightly since the trade that sent him to the Peterborough Petes, as it takes time to adjust to new teammates. Merkley’s best asset is his vision and IQ in the offensive zone as he regularly uses his feet to create space and serves up easy goals for his teammates with perfect passes. Merkley will most likely return to junior next season, however keep an eye on him it the Sharks are unable to sign Erik Karlsson. They may give Merkley a chance to show he can provide some production at the NHL level. Chris Legg
December 2018 – Merkley was dealt to the OHL’s Peterborough Petes from the Guelph Storm in a minor league deal on December 14th . Merkley was far and away the Storm’s best player and this deal signals a rebuild for the Storm who just weren’t able to compete with the OHL’s upper echelon. Merkley meanwhile, made an immediate impact on his new team posting three assists in his debut for the Petes. The trade makes little difference to Merkley’s fantasy potential, he remains a high end offensive defenseman prospect. Chris Legg
December 2018 – Merkley was notably absent from team Canada’s World Junior selection camp roster. It’s not uncommon for 18 year old defensemen to get overlooked, Canada typically brings 19 year olds to the tournament. However, with Merkley leading the OHL in points from the blue line it would have been nice for him to at least get a look in camp. Concerns about his attitude and defending ability are clearly still lingering in the hockey world. Chris Legg
November 2018 – Merkley is up to 22 points through 15 OHL games this season as he continues his absolutely torrid pace. The unfortunate reality with Merkley is that we aren’t really learning anything we didn’t already know. He’s an elite offensive defenseman at the OHL level, he’s really too good for the OHL. The question is always going to be does he have the right mindset to succeed at a higher level. For my money these concerns have been overblown and Merkley is going to make a few amateur scouts look bad when he arrives in the NHL. Chris Legg
October 2018 – Merkley suffered a bit of a scare during a game against the Flint Firebirds. Merkley blocked a shot in the second period of the game and was forced to leave the ice early. Fortunately that’s all the time the Sharks prospect would miss as he returned for Guelph’s weekend set of three games in three nights. Merkley posted four points in those three games including three points in Guelph’s Sunday game against the London Knights. That brings Merkley to ten points in seven games for a 1.43 PPG pace, slightly better than the 1.06 PPG he put up last season. Merkley is looking like he is going to dominate the OHL on the scoreboard this year and make the Sharks look very smart for drafting him late in the first round. He’s a fantasy asset to keep an eye on and should be near the top of the list when it comes to offensive defense prospects. Chris Legg
September 2018 – Merkley impressed in his first game action with the Sharks organization. The defender lived up to his billing as he had moments where he flashed his considerable talent and a few lapses in judgement leading to late penalties. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Merkley was his defensive play. He showed a level of determination that some thought he did not have, skating back into his zone and breaking up plays. His offensive talent was never really in question and he displayed his ability to transport the puck through all three zones. All the more impressive, Merkley was the youngest player on the Sharks rookie squad. Merkley will likely head back to the Guelph Storm after gathering some experience in Sharks training camp and some pre-season games. If you can afford to wait a year or two, Merkley is the Sharks prospect to target for your fantasy team. Chris Legg
June 2018 – The Sharks stepped up to grab Ryan Merkley, a slick defender from the OHL’s Guelph Storm with the 21st overall pick in the 2018 NHL entry draft. Merkley was a wild card in the draft, scouts ranked him anywhere from the top 10 to somewhere in the second round. One thing is certain with Merkley, his skill is worthy of the top of the draft. Regarded as the best passer in the draft, he finds his teammates through seams and more often than not, places the puck right on the tape. His skating is high end as well, he uses his edges to find space on the power play and get his shot through to the net. The knock on Merkley is his commitment to defence and his work ethic. Some have labelled him un-coachable. It remains to be seen if he can shed this label, for now he is the definition of a boom or bust prospect. The Sharks believe in the character of their room and if they can extract Merkley’s potential, they will have hit a home run with this pick. Chris Legg
November 2017 – Ryan Merkley is a dynamic offensive defenseman with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. Merkley was the first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection in 2016, he won the OHL rookie of the year award with most points by a rookie with 55 and in his draft eligible season he is posting over a point per game pace with seven goals and 29 points in the first 23 games.
Merkley is an exceptional skater with an explosive first step acceleration, high end top gear and shifty lateral agility. Merkley sees the ice offensively very well, is an exceptional puck distributor and generates offensive transition as good as any defenseman in his draft class. The concerns with Merkley are he is undersized and struggles with physical battles against bigger stronger opposition. But the main concern is his inability to defend effectively, his reads in the defensive zone are weak, and he chases the play out of position. When he has the puck on his stick, he is an elite player, but when the other team has possession he becomes a liability. The question is can he continue to develop his defensive game and evolve similarly to Samuel Girard, or will he fail to establish an adequate defensive skill set and cap out in the AHL like Anthony DeAngelo? – Peter Harling