Kings 2015-16 Early Season Prospect Rankings: No. 2, Mersch

Mersch-Michael-Manchester-MonarchsWe know you want it, so here we are – one step closer to announcing the name of who sits at No. 1 on our LA Kings Top 10 Prospects list. First, we have to start with No. 2, and he is a player many of you have been asking quite a bit about over the past few months.

Of course, as noted previously, these bi-annual rankings provide some of the most popular content we produce each year, in large part due to the amount of effort that goes into gathering and preparing the evaluations. We’re confident nobody outside of those employed by the team spends more time talking to coaches, scouts, and general managers about the organization’s top prospects on a regular basis than MayorsManor. Our final slotting of players is also influenced by hundreds of hours of game action and debating the prospects with a myriad of well-respected hockey people, including our key sources inside the team.

If you missed the previously posted honorable mentions and/or any of the players ranked No. 3 – 10 on the current list, be sure to go back and check them out after you read this…

2. MICHAEL MERSCH: Left Wing, Ontario Reign (4th round pick in 2011, University of Wisconsin)

Everybody needs to pump the brakes here. Yes, Mersch has scored 36 goals in his last 52 AHL games, however the Kings are desperately trying to bring him along slowly. More than once, we’ve had management reference Oscar Moller when talking about Mersch. Not that the two players are anything close to similar, only that there was an important lesson learned with the former. “Just be realistic about it,” said one Kings’ source. “When we were not a good team, we made some decisions – like with Oscar Moller, for example; he was kind of thrust into the National Hockey League before he was ready for it and in the long run, his career paid the price for it.” Thus, it’s easy to salivate at the success Mersch has had of late, while forgetting to balance it with realistic expectations. It’s even something the Kings brass has struggled with, as Mersch was the last cut from training camp and saw significant playing time during the NHL pre-season.

When we wrote our season preview last year for the Manchester Monarchs, Mersch was listed as a guy who had a great opportunity to be the team’s number one left winger. Though that took quite a while to come to fruition, he eventually showed he is more than capable of filling that role. Actually, what Mersch did to earn that job was quite simple – park himself in front of the net and battle. Just hours after Mersch was selected by the Kings at the 2011 NHL Draft, former Kings playoff hero turned University of Wisconsin assistant coach, Gary Shuchuk, stopped by MayorsManor to talk up the Illinois native and the similarity to Ryan Smyth was already apparent. He is a handful for defenders to remove from the slot, and makes an offensive killing by being in great position to redirect pucks and bury rebounds.

While some are concerned his skating might still be an issue, Mersch’s improvement in the defensive zone has seen him become a reliable penalty kill option for coach Mike Stothers in Ontario. In fact, he is one of Stothers favorite players and last year’s AHL Coach of the Year recently shared this after a game:

For as amazing as his offensive statistics have been (including leading the AHL in shots at the time of his call up this week), it’s also worth noting that before he was hurt in the Hartford series during last season’s playoffs, he was at a goal-a-game clip in the American League’s postseason. He shouldn’t have even been playing in the Calder Cup Final games, given his injury. Thus, if he hadn’t gotten hurt, he might have actually finished the playoffs with a goal-per-game average; something that is nearly unheard of in modern times.

He has done everything the Kings have asked of him, even during his extremely slow start last year in Manchester. His attitude remains beyond great and the entire Kings staff is mesmerized by his potential. Quietly, several in management are hopeful his addition to the Kings roster will have a similar impact to how Dwight King and Jordan Nolan in 2012, along with Tyler Toffoli in 2014, helped bring a contagious enthusiasm to their lineup and helped balance out the offensive on their two championship teams.

For more on Mersch, read this article I wrote on him last year for LAKings.com – it includes plenty of quotes and additional information.

Up next, the No. 1 overall prospect in the Kings’ organization. Until then, we have listed some of our other top prospect articles below for your easy reference.

3 MUST-READ ARTICLES:

2015-16 Early Season Prospect Rankings

LA Kings 2014-15 Midseason Prospect Rankings: The Top 5

Jordan Weal on Blocked Call-up to the Kings

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Comments

  1. responsible D says:

    Hopefully he gets in several more games before this call-up ends, so he can continue to settle in and acclimated to the NHL game. He doesn’t look overmatched, but he does look like he’s still figuring it out. When it’s safe to let instinct take over he’ll blend in better. The staff portrays him as extremely coachable, so it seems like it should just be a matter of time before he’s fully integrated and starting to regularly generate chances.

    That skating tho….

    Before I had ever seen him play, I noted a comment at LAKI that called his stride “nearly unfixable,” and now that I’ve witnessed it first hand, I have to say that’s not as much of an exaggeration as it seemed to be at the time. His form is really awkward and inefficient, which is going to put a ceiling on his achievement if he can’t get it under control. I foresee a summer of skating school in his future.

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