Golden Knights need to play wait-and-see game for Jon Merrill
The former Michigan product hasn’t developed a solid game on the blue line.
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When the Vegas Golden Knights selected defenseman Jon Merrill, a 25-year-old former second-round draft pick in 2010, from the New Jersey Devils in the expansion draft, it would not have been unfair to ask “Who?”
Here's a deeper look at the former Michigan Wolverine product.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound defender has the size that personnel love to see in a defenseman. Merrill is said to have potential shut-down abilities and was praised for his poise and "hockey smarts" coming out of college. His skating is fine enough though not among his skills that stand out.
On the other hand, he doesn't make the most of his large frame and doesn't play an overly physical game — neither is he offensively inclined. Others have questioned his consistency, especially in the defensive zone.
As John Fisher from SB Nation's All About the Jersey writes — "Defensively, it was a struggle at times — more so than one would expect from a young defenseman. There would be shifts where he seemingly understood exactly what to do and execute it cleanly. And then later in the same game, he’d get lost in his own end and generally be ineffective."
Numbers, numbers, numbers
Merrill had a Goals For percentage of 41.42 and a Goals Against per 60 of 2.24 in his first three years. Meanwhile, his possession was weak at 48.16 Corsi For Percentage.
That ranked Merrill 240th in GF% out of 255 defensemen. 146th in GA60, and 187th in CF%.
Last season, his numbers made his selection even more confusing.
His GF% plummeted to 39.29 percent (160th out of 169 eligible defensemen playing at least 750 minutes). His 2.44 GA60 ranked 117th, and while his CF% rose to 48.46% in 2016-17(114th), it's still not great.
Of course, those numbers last season were against high quality of competition. Among his higher matchups in terms of minutes played against are Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Phil Kessel.
He has the size and basic tools to be a solid NHL defender, unfortunately, he hasn’t put it all together. He's not a strong possession player, isn't particularly stout defensively, doesn't use his big frame to the most of its abilities, and gives up more than he produces.
This is all problematic.
He might have the potential to turn it around given easier matchups and a better defensive partner but that is yet to be seen.