Merkley back with WHL’s Rockets

19-year-old centre to bolster Kelowna's sagging offence

Nick Merkley is returning to the Kelowna Rockets this week from the NHL's Arizona Coyotes.

Help is on the way for the Kelowna Rockets’ offence.

Centre Nick Merkley makes his return to the Western Hockey League club this week from the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes and will be in the lineup Wednesday when the Rockets visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Merkley, who hasn’t played for the Rockets since last February due to an ACL injury, appeared in a pair of exhibition games with the Coyotes before returning home on Sunday.

The Rockets, who have scored just nine goals in five games (1-4-0) this season, no doubt welcome the return of Merkley, who has 196 points in 182 career games in the WHL.

“It will be a matter of getting him used to being back here, he hasn’t been around this group of guys,” said Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton. “It will be interesting to see how (coach) Jason (Smith) deals with him, to get him to play his game and not try to do everything.

“He’s coming off rehab, a pretty serious injury, so it’s a matter of continuing that rehab and building on it.

“He’ll bring a lot of energy to our team,” added Hamilton, “something that’s been lacking from our veterans so far.”

The Rockets are without two other key pieces of their offence. Forward Dillon Dube is sidelined for the next three to four weeks with a knee injury suffered at the camp of the NHL’s Calgary Flames.

And Calvin Thurkauf, who returned for last weekend’s games in Prince George from the Columbus BlueJackets, is shelved on a day-to-day basis with a lower body injury.