Todd Cordell


Tag Archives: Nick Merkley

By The Numbers: Evaluating Prospects With Advanced Stats

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Analytics in hockey have been growing rapidly over the last few years but there’s still a long way to go – particularly in junior hockey and with prospects.

While there are some good websites (notably out there that provide more insight into what really is going on in the prospect world, there is essentially nothing available when it comes to underlying numbers on a game-by-game basis at the CHL and NCAA levels.

When I’m not scouting in a rink I often find myself watching junior hockey on TV whenever the opportunity presents itself. Since I’d watch a lot of games, anyway, I decided to start tracking numbers for prospects in the games televised.

Unfortunately it’s a very time consuming process so I only tracked a handful of players per game.

I didn’t start doing this until midway through the season so I missed the opportunity to track a good chunk of games, however, I tracked a fair amount in the latter half of the season and throughout the CHL playoffs.

What Can This Tell Us?

While there isn’t enough data available to make any dramatic conclusions, this can help give us an idea of how Player Y was utilized by his team, Player Y’s ability to drive play up ice and why Player Y produced as much/as little as they did.

For example, it’s tougher for a player with a lot of defensive zone starts to produce offense than a player who regularly starts in the offensive zone. If Player Y is being spoon fed defensive zone starts his ability to put up points is being hindered.

In terms of zone entries if a player gained the line with possession 20 out of 25 times it’s probably a reasonable bet to assume he’s normally good through the neutral zone.

Notes & Numbers

A couple notes before presenting the data:

– These numbers include all even-strength play (i.e. 5 v 5, 4 v 4, etc.).

– I sorted by league to make all the data easier to navigate.

– I didn’t combine international hockey to a player’s numbers in North America due to different levels of competition, larger ice surfaces, etc.

– Memorial Cup numbers have been added to a player’s league numbers since the level of competition is very similar. That means Leon Draisaitl’s numbers, for example, include what he did against WHL teams as well as what he did at the Memorial Cup against OHL/QMJHL teams.

– SAF and SAA are shot attempts for and against. OZS, NZS, and DZS are offensive, neutral and defensive zone starts. CE are controlled entries and EA are entry attempts.

Without further ado here are the zone start, zone entry and shot attempt numbers from the 2014-15 season for many of the top prospects in North America.


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World Hockey Championships

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Under 18’s

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If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!


By The Numbers: Kelowna Rockets vs Quebec Remparts – May 29, 2015

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Players tracked:

*2nd year eligible

Quebec – F Vladimir Tkachev (2015*), F Dmytro Timashov (2015)

Kelowna – F Leon Draisaitl (Oilers), F Nick Merkley (2015)

Final score: 9-3 Kelowna

Zone Starts

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Vladimir Tkachev started the game on a line with Dmytro Timashov but midway through they were separated and Tkachev didn’t play much in the latter half.

Dmytro Timashov started almost all of his shifts outside of the offensive zone until the very end of the game. He had three offensive zone starts (a couple as a result to icings) in the final few minutes. It was clear that Quebec had no problem with him starting outside of the OZ and they relied on him heavily to drive play up ice.

Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl are linemates and were once again relied upon to do the heavy lifting for the Rockets. They fared extremely well in doing so, which you’ll see below.

Zone Entries

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Vladdy Hockey had four controlled entries in the first eight minutes of the game, and just one in the final 52. More than anything that was a result of almost no ice time in the latter half of the game. Despite limited ice he was still excellent through the neutral zone and did a good job moving the puck in the right direction.

It’s not hard to see why Timashov started the majority of his shifts outside of the offensive zone. He’s a very good skater with excellent puck skills so he’s able to dance around defenders even when challenged.

Merkley was absolutely dominant through the neutral zone. He’s a great skater and his speed regularly forces defenders to back up and give him the line. There’s also always the option of dishing it off to Draisaitl which defenders have to respect. That often gives Merkley more space to work with.

Draisaitl wasn’t perfect but was once again very good through the middle of the ice. He’s not a burner but he has a great set of hands on him which makes him tough to defend in space.

Shot Attempts

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Tkachev didn’t bring his best possession game to the table, however, he went huge chunks of minutes without a shift at times which probably didn’t help his cause. One shift he was caught out for seven shot attempts against vs the Merkley/Draisaitl line and that killed his numbers. Beyond that one shift he was actually pretty good and his neutral zone work was excellent.

Timashov played about as well as you can in a 9-3 loss. He was effective through the neutral zone, came out positive in possession despite a good chunk of defensive zone starts and he also chipped in a power play goal.

Merkley somehow didn’t get on the scoresheet despite an excellent showing. He was perfect through the neutral zone and dominated in possession while starting just one of 17 even-strength shifts in the offensive zone.

Last but not least we have Leon the beast Draisaitl. He was excellent in all aspects of the game and that shows up in his underlying numbers. For the standard stat crowd he scored a goal, added two assists and recorded six shots on goal while also winning over 60% of his faceoffs. He was a man amongst boys in this one.


If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!

By The Numbers: Rimouski Oceanic vs Kelowna Rockets – May 25, 2015

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After dropping their opening games to Oshawa and Quebec respectively, the Rimouski Oceanic and Kelowna Rockets squared off looking for their 1st win of the tournament.

Kelowna jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and, though Rimouski was able to make it interesting for a little bit, never gave up the lead en route to a 7-3 win.

For the Rockets I tracked Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl as well as draft eligible forward Nick Merkely, while I kept my eyes on Maple Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier for Rimouski.

Zone Starts

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Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl played on the same line in this game. Kelowna seemed hell bent on getting those two away from Frederik Gauthier so they essentially started in whatever zone Kelowna was in when Gauthier left the ice. Both have the ability to drive play up ice and produce offense so I don’t think the Rockets were overly concerned about that duo starting the majority of their shifts outside of the offensive zone.

Gauthier started a lot more shifts in the offensive zone as the game went on. Rimouski was down for almost the entire game and Gauthier is one of their best players so naturally he started more in the offensive zone while the Oceanic were trailing.

Zone Entries

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Merkley didn’t have many entry attempts because Draisaitl is the driver on their line, however, Merkely did show the ability to gain the line with possession in a small sample.

As per usual Draisaitl was a beast through the neutral zone. He’s not a burner but he gets around the ice better than most give him credit for and because of his puck skills and strength he’s very tough to stop.

I didn’t count any entry attempts for Gauthier. The Oceanic are a big, strong team and Gauthier doesn’t ooze speed/puck skills so often when he gained center he would just dump the puck in.

Shot Attempts

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There were 11 power plays in this game so the shot attempt numbers were a little lower than you’d expect to see from top players.

Merkley had a fantastic game scoring a couple goals and creating some glorious chances in the process, but he came out a little less than even in possession. He started more shifts in the defensive zone than offensive zone, though, so finishing almost 50% with three points is pretty impressive.

Draisaitl had a couple shifts away from Merkley throughout the game, and took on some heavier minutes, which shows in the numbers. Draisaitl still tallied three points, dominated through the neutral zone and came out close to 50% in possession despite starting just five of 17 shifts in the offensive zone.

Gauthier really struggled in this game. He started quite a few shifts in his own zone and struggled in the dot – he won 12/29 draws – which led to some shot attempts immediately after the puck was dropped. Rimouski also dumped the puck in a lot and failed to retreive those pucks on most occasions, which allowed Kelowna to grab the puck and take it the other way.


If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!

By The Numbers: Kelowna Rockets vs Vancouver Giants – March 20, 2015

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Two teams on the opposite side of the spectrum met on Friday night when the Vancouver Giants hosted the Kelowna Rockets.

The Giants are a young team that has struggled this season, and they entered this game needing to win their final two games (and get help) to make the playoffs. On the flip side, Kelowna had already locked up the No. 1 seed and used this game to try and prepare themselves for the playoffs.

As I did last time I tracked a Kelowna game, I kept my eyes on Leon Draisaitl (EDM), and draft eligible winger Nick Merkley for the Rockets. The Giants don’t have a lot of high-end talent, so I tracked numbers for a potential late round pick in forward Alec Baer, as well as 2016 draft eligible Tyler Benson, who is projected to go pretty high in the 1st round.

Final score: 4-3 Kelowna in OT

Zone Starts

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Nick Merkley plays on Kelowna’s top pure scoring line alongside Sharks prospect Rourke Chartier and Flyers prospect Tyrell Goulbourne, so naturally he was given plenty of offensive zone starts.

Leon Draisaitl centered Kelowna’s best all purpose line, and was given tougher assignments. He still started more of his shifts in the offensive zone than defensive zone, but that was because of his ability to drive play up ice as much as anything. Several times he started shifts in the defensive zone and finished in the offensive zone before all was said and done.

Draft eligible forward Alec Baer was given the toughest assignments from head coach Claude Noel. As mentioned, Vancouver isn’t an overly deep team, and they’re young, so Baer – who is clearly trusted by the coaching staff – did the heavy lifting as a result.

Benson is clearly Vancouver’s best pure offensive player, and is also 16, so it was less than surprising to see him given some sheltered minutes against a powerhouse Kelowna team.

Zone Entries

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Nick Merkley was once against excellent through the neutral zone. He’s a good skater and is very good handling pucks, so whenever defenders didn’t back off and give him the line he’d just stickhandle around them.

Leon Draisaitl was dominant through the neutral zone, too. Several times Vancouver defenders tried to stick check him or knock him off the puck when entering the zone, but he was able to consistently skate through contact. Like Merkley, he also danced around defenders to gain the line whenever he had to.

Baer didn’t have many entry attempts – Vancouver used the dump and chase method a lot – but he showed the ability to do it.

Benson started a good portion of his shifts in the offensive zone, but he had a couple entry attempts as well. Both entries the defenders backed off respecting his speed and he carried it in without much trouble.

Shot Attempts

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Merkley had good linemates and plenty of offensive zone starts, and his possession numbers reflect that. Still, he did what he was supposed to do.

Draisaitl played a very strong game in all aspects. He was dominant through the neutral zone, and he drove possession at an elite rate despite a decent chunk of defensive zone starts. He also showed up everywhere on the scoresheet, factoring in on all four Kelowna goals (1G, 3A) in the win.

Baer didn’t do very well in possession, but he’s still young at 17, and against a powerhouse team like Kelowna it’d be hard to do much better given the tough minutes he played. He was beaten pretty good at even-strength, but did factor in with a power play goal.

As for Benson, those numbers certainly won’t stand out but they are impressive. He played against an elite team, started 9 of 14 shifts outside of the offensive zone, and came out close to even in possession despite the fact he’s not even draft eligible until 2016.

Combined Data

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I’ve now tracked two games for Merkley and Draisaitl, so above you’ll see the combined numbers. It’s still not a large sample size, but the bigger the better.


If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!

By The Numbers: Kelowna Rockets @ Victoria Royals – Feb 20 2015

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With the powerhouse Kelowna Rockets taking on a solid Victoria Royals team, I thought it was as good of a time as any to track my first WHL game of the year.

Both teams possess quality draft eligibles (highly touted winger Nick Merkley on Kelowna; underrated center Tyler Soy on Victoria) as well as some high-end drafted players, so there were plenty of options as to which players to track.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like to track 3-4 players per game because it can be a bit chaotic if the number gets too high, so I decided to track Merkley and Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl for Kelowna, while I tracked Soy and Red Wings defensemen Joe Hicketts for Victoria.

Note: PvR stopped recording with about 5 mins left in the 3rd. There was a late PP, so I missed 2-3 mins of ES time.

Zone Starts

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The Kelowna Rockets are loaded from top-to-bottom and have high-end players on each of their top three lines, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Merkley and Draisaitl, who play on different lines, both trusted in the defensive zone, but also given some offensive zone starts. This was a pretty even game, and Kelowna didn’t seem to care who was on the ice – at least up front – regardless of where play was starting.

That was the case for Hicketts, too. He’s Victoria’s top blue liner and the game was pretty even, so naturally his zone starts were evenly distributed as well.

As for Soy, he played a little less sparingly, so I think Victoria picked their spots a little more with his zone starts. He certainly seemed capable of playing defense, and did a nice job driving play, which you’ll see shortly.

Zone Entries

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Nick Merkley was very effective carrying the puck up ice and into the offensive zone, but Leon Draisaitl was a machine in that regard. He used his big strong frame to protect the puck, and made his entries look easy. Obviously it’s nice to have highly skilled players like Draisaitl spoon fed offensive zone starts, but I can see why Kelowna isn’t too concerned with how they use him. He really excelled in this game regardless of his usage.

Joe Hicketts didn’t have an entry attempt, and Soy made good of his lone try. He did have a few zone entries on the man advantage, but that’s to be expected.

Shot Attempts

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Merkley spent a good portion of his time playing against Joe Hicketts at even-strength, so what he was able to accomplish was quite impressive for a 17-year-old. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he played well and created/had several chances.

Draisaitl was an absolute freak. He wasn’t rewarded for his efforts until late – he had a PPG and an assist in the final eight minutes – but he dominated this game from start to finish. OZ start? Here comes a few shot attempts. NZ or DZ start? No problem, Draisaitl just carried the puck up ice, into the OZ and went to town. What a player.

Hicketts logged a ton of minutes and spent almost all of his time against either Merkley’s line or Draisatl’s, so it was tough for him to come out even in the shot attempt battle; especially considering he has lesser players to work with. 41% isn’t the greatest, but you can live with it given who he was up against.

Last but not least, Soy did a heck of a job driving play. His defensive positioning forced some turnovers in the defensive zone, and offensively he generated quite a bit. Considering he has 24 goals, 54 points and (for whoever likes the stat) a plus-20 rating on a mid tier team – 9th out of 20 in the WHL – you’d think he’d be regarded higher (ranked 152 among NA skaters by Central Scouting). He’s listed at 5’11’ on the WHL website, too, so it’s not as if size is much of an issue. This was the first time I’ve seen him play, but I’m sure you could do much worse in the mid-to-late rounds than Soy.


If you use or share this data, please cite this blog as the resource. Thanks!

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