When one of the biggest trades in Devils’ history occurred on December 16, 2019.
This deal sent Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, the Coyotes sent multiple players and future draft picks back to the Devils in exchange for a chance to use Hall to bolster their playoff hopes. One of the players who came over from the Coyotes was Nick Merkley. Devils fans more than likely had to ask themselves, who is Nick Merkley?
Nick Merkley was a rising star in the Coyotes organization. Drafted back in 2015, Merkley had been working his way up the ranks from Kelowna in the WHL up to the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners when he became a part of the Taylor Hall trade last December.
While Merkley has been mercurial in showing flashes of talent with the Coyotes organization, he also spent time languishing in the AHL. Multiple injuries over the past few years, combined with questions of his playing ability and overall consistency have plagued Merkley.
However, the Taylor Hall trade deal may have been exactly what Nick Merkley needed to revive his hockey career. Early successes in Binghamton allowed Merkley to be called up for four games with the Devils before the season suspension in March. Regarded as a powerplay specialist, Merkley was able to record his first assist on a powerplay against Carolina and scored his first NHL goal against Columbus on February 16th.
Merkley commented on his early success during his stint with the Devils:
“Getting the opportunities I wasn’t getting in Tucson on the powerplay and more minutes gave me that confidence again and becoming the player that I was drafted as.”
Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine was also impressed with Merkley’s play which may translate into opportunities should this current season resume or in next season’s training camp:
“He stood out. He competed. He worked hard on the puck. I really liked his game. That line I thought was really effective all night long. They played in the offensive zone, kept it simple.”
Will next season be the year for Nick Merkley to make a breakthrough in his NHL career?
With the re-building and youth movement occurring within the Devils organization, players who are starting to find themselves in their careers is exactly what the Devils are looking for.
The Devils certainly have plans for Nick Merkley in the long run and it’s time for Devils fans to start getting used to hearing Merkley’s name in nightly lineups.
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