Ryan Merkley is a game changer

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

By East Bay Ry,

It is no secret that the San Jose Sharks have not done a great job of drafting and developing defensemen in recent years. I feel like I have read that somewhere very recently. It is possible that this could be changing, with the development of Mario Ferraro and possibly Jeremy Roy, if he can stay healthy. But the prospect who is most likely to change this is Ryan Merkley.

We here at Fear the Fin Hockey Blogging, Advanced Chemicals, & Fishmongers, LLC. are extremely excited that Doug Wilson called Ryan Merkley’s name on the Friday night in June. In the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, we gleefully selected Ryan Merkley at 21 overall, and clearly Doug Wilson read that post and agreed with us. And over the past three months, we have spilled a fair bit of digital ink covering Merkley. Sie wrote his draft profile here, and Ian has written about Merkley here and here. And — spoiler alert — there will be many more updates on the Guelph Storm defenseman here throughout the upcoming season.

The main reason that we are excited about Ryan Merkley is that drafting him was out of character for Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks. We have grown accustomed to watching Wilson use first round picks on safe prospects, rather than those with the highest upside. For instance, in 2015 he drafted Timo Meier, when Matt Barzal was still on the board. In 2017, the Sharks used their first round pick on Josh Norris, while Kailer Yamamoto, Klim Kostin and Eeli Tolvanen were still available.

But not this year. In 2018, the Sharks used their first round pick to select a player with game-breaking potential. Ryan Merkley is the most skilled Sharks’ prospect since Logan Couture. For real.

With 67 points in 63 games, Merkley was third in scoring among OHL defensemen (behind Evan Bouchard and Nicolas Hague) in his draft year. His betweenness score indicates that he was driving play, in a significant fashion.

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