Patience is said to be a virtue and if that’s the case, Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Jay Merkley possesses that virtue in spades.
When Merkley broke into the Western Hockey League as a 16-year old last season, he was coming off a season with the Calgary Buffaloes Midget AAA that saw him score 43 points in 32 games. He was used to being the go-to offense guy and getting loads of ice time.
However, that was not the role that Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach Rich Preston had in mind for the rookie making his debut in Major Junior. Like any player stepping into a new league, Merkley had to prove his merit in a variety of roles. The five-foot-11, 187-pound forward ploughed out primarily bottom-six minutes and saw limited power-play time.
Instead of whining and pouting about his decreased role, Merkley soldiered through and did what the coaches instructed him to do.
A year later, the smooth-skating Merkley has been paid off for his patience with a top-six role. He’s ran with it.
So far this season, Merkley has scored 13 times in 32 games, chipping in five assists over that same span. He’s already found the back of the net more times this season over last year’s totals.
The increased production and expanded role have allowed scouts like Future Considerations’ Zenon Herasymiuk to take a longer look at what the Calgary product can offer.
According to Herasymiuk, Merkley delivers a mixed bag.
“Merkley is a playmaking forward with excellent hockey sense and good puck skills,” Herasymiuk said. “He is an above average skater with good agility and strength on his edges. He isn’t the most physical forward and his speed isn’t top notch but Merkley is good in his position, although he doesn’t make much of an impact in the defenseive zone.”
While his efforts have landed Merkley on the radar of scouts, he still needs to show improvement to land on the pages of scouting lists, meaning Merkley’s patience will likely be tested once again as he continually makes strides to improve in all areas of the game.
But when it is, he’ll undoubtedly prove he was worth the wait.