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With the 25th Overall Pick, The Toronto Maple Leafs Select… Ryan Merkley?

Who is Ryan Merkley?

Ryan Merkley is easily the most controversial player in this year’s draft. Merkley is a local, having been born in Mississauga and played for the Toronto Jr. Canadians teams in the GTBHL and the GTMMHL (His Bantam and Midget years, respectively) which is a program that has produced the likes of Tyler Toffoli, Jakob Chychrun and Tyler Biggs (alarm bells, anyone?).

In the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, Merkley was drafted 1st overall to the Guelph Storm. In his rookie year with Guelph, he lead the team in scoring with 55 pts in 62 GP, becoming the first rookie in franchise history to lead the team in points and hauling in some hardware in doing so, such as Rookie of the Year and was named the “Top Playmaker”.

Where is Merkley Ranked?

What do the Numbers Say?

As stated, Merkley was slightly under a point per game player in his rookie year, but in his draft year, he expanded on this point total achieving 67 pts in 63 GP. In the past year, the Guelph Storm found themselves in the playoffs, in which the Storm were ousted in game 6 of the first round. Merkley scored a goal and 5 assists in the series, maintaining a point per game. Among 17 year old defenseman, Merkley finished 1st among in primary assists, 2nd in primary points and 2nd in total points.

In the 10 game sample, Merkley fared extremely well, minus some of his work in the neutral zone. As can be seen in the highlight video attached to this article, Merkley’s work with the puck on his stick is incredible, and this sample further promotes that fact. He leaves a great deal to be desired defensively, but on a pretty weak Guelph team, his work offensively overpowers his defensive struggles.

Additional Stats:

Goals 13
Assists 54
Points 67
5v5 Primary Points 24
PPG 1.06
GF% 43.65
GF% Rel -0.73
eTOI 17.59

Eye Test:

What Has Been Said About Merkley:

“Ryan Merkley breaks down a team from the offensive blue line about as well as any 17 year olf I’ve seen. Vision and skating ++ “ Corey Pronman/The Athletic

“Merkley is a phenomenal skater with excellent speed. He’s strong on his edges with an excellent ability to change direction in a split second. He can beat most players north-south and east-west. He’s also an excellent passer who excels at making quick, accurate short passes or long stretch passes out of his zone. This makes Merkley very good at clearing the d-zone, but it is not always picture perfect. He’s sometimes caught forcing the play, one that is not always there. He is still prone to turning over the puck, but there have been improvements in that area. A season ago, you could attribute it to playing on the Western Conference’s last place team and trying to do it all himself. He’s a very smart hockey player so he should be able to get that out of his game.” Dominic Tiano/OHL Writers

Why the Leafs Should Draft Ryan Merkley

There is no doubt about it, Markley is an elite offensive talent. From the eye test to deeper looks at his stats, he likely has an incredible ceiling as an offensive RHD. Merkley is a polarizing player, as someone with his offensive talent would usually be projected in the top 10, yet there have been numerous rumors surrounding his apparent attitude issues. On top of this, his defensive game is a significant concern. Just last year, the Leafs selected a RHD who’s stock had slid before the draft (albeit for very different reasons) and honestly, if given that opportunity for an RHD with a possible elite offensive ceiling, you have to take it and figure out the issues later. It is quite likely that another team has already taken a chance with Merkley before the Leafs pick at 25, but if he remains, the Leafs could find themselves with another RHD with a possible elite ceiling who can practically run a powerplay on his own. When it comes down to it Ryan Merkley would be a high risk pick, with a good chance of a fantastic payoff.

MLN Draft #Content

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  • Hugh Allan

    Questionable attitude?
    They said the same thing about Alex De Brincat so Hunter picked Korshkov with the 31st pick instead.
    Look at what De Brincat is doing for the Blackhawks now and look at what Korshkov is doing for the Leafs in his draft year +3?

  • Matmarwill

    Of the profiled players who might be available at the 25 spot, i like both merkley and dellandrea. Either would be a great acquisition. It appears that merkley may have the more upside. He will grow a bit more and fill out. Attitude issues can be dealt with, as kadri has shown. Skating ability and hockey vision cant be taught, though improving on defense can be. As a rhd he would be a great project for the leafs developmental staff to take on. He can stay another year, or two, in the ohl, a couple of years on the marlies, and then we’ll see. Likely a good investment.