When two players are part of the same draft class it’s common for them to be linked or compared to throughout their careers. In fact, it’s something Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan spoke about this week when he arrived in Sweden, while talking about the Kings Anze Kopitar (both were selected at the 2005 NHL Draft). The same could be said for two of LA’s picks from the 2010 NHL Draft – Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel. Both defensemen stand about 6-foot-5 and have participated in the USA Hockey program. Now, they’re competitors in the WCHA – Forbort is at North Dakota and Gravel at St. Cloud State.
Which brings us to the 2011 draft class. Forward Nick Shore (Denver University) was taken by the Kings in the third round and Michael Mersch (University of Wisconsin) was taken a round later. They’ve gotten to know each other a little bit at the Kings annual summer Development Camps. However, they’re more familiar playing against each other, which they’ll do again in a two-game series starting tonight.
Both players, now juniors at their respective schools, come into the weekend as major offensive contributors for their teams. Mersch has scored eight goals in 10 games, tied for the Badgers team lead. And Shore’s 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) is tops among the Pioneers current squad.
Over the five times they met up last season, Denver went 3-2. Wisconsin’s spread their two wins out, taking one contest at home and on the road. During one of the games at UW, Mersch had a three point night (1 goal, 2 assists) – which statistically speaking, was his second-best game of the season. On the other hand, Shore had a goal in each of the Pioneers three wins.
Shore’s been good for about a point-per-game this season. However, he was held off the score-sheet in Denver’s last game, a 6-4 loss to second-ranked New Hampshire last weekend.
Among college hockey players nationally, Shore enters play tonight ranked seventh in points-per-game (1.42). Interestingly, he’s tied with Nic Dowd of St. Cloud State – another Kings prospect (2009 draft class). Meanwhile, Mersh is ranked third among all NCAA players in goals-per-game.
Earlier today, Mersch had this to say to MayorsManor – “Really looking forward to this weekend. As a team, we’re looking to turn the ship around.”
Specific to his development and how he feels about his individual skills at the moment, Mersh added – “We have some pros skating with our team in Madison and it’s allowed me to learn a few things to further my game. So, I have to give credit to them and my coaches for helping me lately.”
If all that’s not enough, Irvine native, Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks second round pick last June), will be making his debut tonight for Wisconsin.
Catch all the action on the NBC Sports Network tonight at 7:30pn PST.