Only two players in the WHL had more assists last year than the Kelowna Rockets' Nick Merkley. At nearly every level of competition, Merkley has been a point-per-game player on the ice. Recently, he's averaged nearly an assist per game, nevermind putting the puck in the back of the net. In 2014-15, he has followed up a 70-assist-in-72-game regular campaign with 18 assists in 15 playoff games, and the Rockets are still in the playoffs. This kid creates goals.
Merkley may fall due to his small frame. At 5'10" and 187lbs., he isn't the stockiest centreman in the draft. With Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev currently in the pipeline, the Bruins may want a little more size down the middle. But another undersized WHL talent in Tyler Johnson currently leads the postseason in goals scored, so talent can't always be ignored. He's also primarily played on the wing during his time with Kelowna, excelling in both positions. This versatility could raise his draft stock just a little bit more.
A playmaking center that has an excellent eye for the game; sees the ice like a hawk from above. Creates scoring chances and on-ice energy through taking advantage of puck-possession and making the most of turnovers. Incredible work ethic; will battle against larger players and isn't afraid to do the dirty work in front of the net. Does not possess the largest frame or a dynamic level of skating; however, he does boast a remarkably high level of Hockey-IQ and a deep understanding of the game… All-in-all, Merkley brings a medley of skill, smarts, and work ethic to the table, making him an invaluable asset as a Center. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)
Not to be ignored is his physicality. He's a bit thicker than other forwards his height, and isn't afraid to throw his weight around. A lot. He's able to both take the body, and give the body to make plays, absorbing some biggest hits. And Merk is also known to scrap a little if his team needs a wakeup call. This outstanding play-maker has a little nastiness in his game, which could appeal to Cam Neely or whoever the Bruins have in the GM chair to make their draft selection. He reminds me of a Vladimir Sobotka with greater vision and much better passing.
He doesn't come without his shortcomings though. Merkley has great work ethic, but needs to improve on some small areas of his game--stick-handling, decision-making and acceleration to name a few. He's been criticized of disappearing for prolonged periods of time--through Jan. 3rd he average 1.7 points-per-game, then just 1.2 points-per-game thereafter--but such is hockey. He doesn't have quite the poise as some other highly-touted prospects, but has a complete game with a broad skillset, and a strong compete level with a willingness to never give up on the play.
An offensive forward that makes an impact in the game every time he touches the puck…improved skater this season and possess more jump in his step…not big by any stretch but shows a willingness to throw his weight around…impressive hockey sense and ability to think the game…very creative and crafty with the puck…plays a complete 200-foot game…a strong playmaker with impressive vision and touch on his passes…willing to take the puck to the net…has an effective shot that is quick off his stick. (Future Considerations - December 2014)
The Bruins have a decent amount of right-handed centremen in the pipeline, with the recent signings and draft picks like Danton Heinen, Austin Czarnik, and Ryan Fitzgerald. But a center with the ability to play the wing is something that may appeal to the team, as would a right-handed shot. Center may not be the Bruins' biggest need, but scoring goals is. And whether scoring them or setting them up, Merkley has always been very good at creating goals.