In his first season and a half in the Western Hockey League, Nick Merkley has commanded his share of attention from National Hockey League scouts.
On Thursday night in St. Catharines, Ont., the Kelowna Rockets’ forward will be among 40 players auditioning their skills at the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects Game.
In Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings released Tuesday, Merkley is listed 13th among North American skaters, making him a probable first-round choice in this summer’s NHL entry draft.
Since winning the WHL’s rookie of the year honours last season, the Calgary product hasn’t missed a beat and currently sits third in league scoring with 14 goals and 64 points in 45 games.
Rockets head coach Dan Lambert said Merkley is deserving of the recognition.
“Surely the season he’s had so far, it’s no surprise he’s moved up in the rankings, and deservedly so,” said Lambert. “Nick just has to make sure he keeps playing his game, because you can go down just as fast as you go up. At the end of the day, he has to keep proving he’s the player the scouts think he is.”
A pair of Rockets’ defencemen were also cited in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings—Devante Stephens was rated 108th among North American skaters, while Joe Gatenby came in at 134.
Rocket Shots…The Rockets (34-8-3-0) will host the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips (28-12-3-1) for two games this weekend, Friday and Saturday at Prospera Place.
In the only previous meeting between the teams on Oct. 3 in Everett, the Rockets won 5-4 in overtime…Rockets’ centre Rourke Chartier is day-to-day with an upper body injury and is considered questionable for this weekend’s games. “He’s getting better daily,” said Lambert. “We’re hopeful he’ll be able to play against Everett.”
The WHL’s leading goal scorer was injured after being checked from behind Jan. 14 against Tri-City.