Future Considerations’ Alberta-based scout Zenon Herasymiuk gives his thoughts on who from the 2015 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
Every game I watched Nick Merkley in this year, he did something that brought fans out of their seats and always left a lasting impression. Merkley isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest player in the world, but what really makes the most of every shift.
He has a shifty edge to his stride which allows him to dart around the ice and evade checks. His vision and anticipation stand above most as he delicately slings passes around the offensive zone, constantly creating high-end scoring chances in creative ways. Merkley also plays the game with a lot of bite. On numerous occasions I saw him blow up 6-foot-3 defensemen who underestimated the power Merkley can bring on the forecheck. Rarely do you see a player his size play with the amount of fearlessness and tenaciousness that Merkley displayed consistently throughout this season.
What has impressed me most has been the development of Merkley over the last couple years. He has worked hard to round out his game. I’ve been lucky enough to see him blossom from a little high-octane center into a crease crashing, play making star in the making on some of junior hockey’ biggest stages. I have no doubt in my mind that Merkley will bring people to their feet in NHL rinks in the near future and he is the type of prospect that all 30 NHL team want in their organization because of his competitiveness and willingness to do anything in his power to help his team win.
Unfortunately, every year there are a few players that fail to live up to their preseason hype. That player for me this season was Nick McBride of the Prince Albert Raiders.
Coming into the season, we had high hopes for McBride, hoping he would carry over his strong play as a 16 year old into a full-time starter role with the Raiders. After a shaky start to the season, he never really seemed to bounce back and solidify the starter’s role which was his for the taking. He was not able to continue displaying the athleticism and poise he played with in his rookie season and he seemed to be fighting the puck and swimming in his crease on a regular basis. While McBride had a difficult year, he has the prototypical size that pro teams look for in goalies and he still has the mobility to make tough saves which keep him in the minds of NHL teams as he develops over the next few seasons.
One player I felt never got enough, or any, recognition this season was Tate Olson of the Prince George Cougars.
Olson is a rugged, hard-nosed defenseman that plays his heart out every shift. He plays a very nasty game in the defensive zone by consistently throwing mean checks and using his reach to cover up lanes. Olson never backs down from a challenge and has displayed a ton of leaps forward in all aspects of his game over the last season. He is starting to zip passes around in transition and his footwork seems to get better and better with every viewing. He also has a raw frame which he hasn’t grown into yet which will really intimidate players when he is bearing down on them in the corners. While Olson doesn’t have any standout quality or sure-fire projectability, but he has good size, improving puck skills, and decent senses in all areas of the game. If he can continue on his upward trajectory, he could end up being a really good late round pick.