— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) December 9, 2015
Dating back to last season, Michael Mersch has scored 36 goals in his last 52 games.
With a dizzying array of feints and jukes, the newest King always seems to be able to get the puck on net, as evidenced by his AHL-leading 93 shots on goal this year. The Hartford Wolfpack’s Jayson Megna is a distant second with 77.
A lot of these shots are in dangerous areas too; besides the goals, his individual even strength scoring chance numbers are through the roof. I’m tracking Reign scoring chances for Jewels from the Crown, and at the quarter mark of the season, Mersch leads the team with 37, Nic Dowd well behind at 23.
Most of these moves are around the net in tight spaces, which makes for a very different style of play. In this way, Mersch tries to emulate past Red Wing terror Tomas Holmstrom. Reign GM Rob Blake commented, “He does a lot of things that are hard to find in the league, puck possession down low and the way he creates things in front of the net.”
How’s this for creative?
And speaking of puck possession, when there’s a shot attempt by either team when Mersch is on the ice, 64.4% of the time, it’s an Ontario attempt. That leads the team. Simply put, when the 6’2″ winger skates, the Reign more or less own the puck.
As Mersch told me himself, that’s part of the plan. Even when he’s trying to score, “There’s always puck protection involved with it. You’re trying to shield the puck away from opponents.” He’s obviously a graduate of LA’s “puck protection” factory:
But the 2011 fourth-round pick is prized for more than just offense. He’s been arguably the Western Conference-leading Reign’s most reliable player in every zone and situation.
So while it’s hard to say if and how quickly Mersch’s game will translate to the NHL—the 23-year-old is not the fleetest of foot—there’s no doubt that he’s an intriguing scoring talent with size and a complete game. There’s a good chance Darryl Sutter will learn to love “Big Mike” as much as Reign head coach Mike Stothers does:
“Nothing really surprises me with him…He’s a guy, when you look at the game and you’re making some film for the rest of the team to watch, he’s in quite a few of the highlights and for all the right reasons.
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