Storm Watch: Merkley models his game after a Pittsburgh Penguin

A future Sharks wants to play like a Penguin.

Ryan Merkley was featured on CTV Kitchener over the weekend and revealed his favorite player is Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. “I like to watch him and model my game after him, Merkley said. “I see a lot of similarities, I guess. Playing with the puck, being a power play guy.”

Letang, of course, is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and has averaged 0.65 points per game since joining Penguins late in 2006-07. As a third-round draft pick in 2005 out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Letang didn’t come as highly-touted as Merkley, but his description on Elite Prospects sure screams of what the San Jose first-rounder could bring to the table for the Sharks one day if all goes according to plan:

Letang is an all-around talent on defense. He has world-class skating ability and terrific puckhandling skills. He’s got fantastic hockey sense and oozes creativity from the backend. The right-handed shot can also play a physical game, despite not having a huge frame.

In that same interview, Merkley added this about being selected by the Sharks with the 21st overall pick:

It’s a big relief once they finally call your name. Pure excitement. You can’t really remember it, kind of just blacked out. You’re so fired up. You’re body goes numb. It’s an unreal feeling.

Oh, to be a youth again!

Merkley finally taking his shots

As for Guelph’s weekend that was on the ice, the Storm went 0-1-0-1 on a Northern Ontario road trip, losing 4-3 to the Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, and 5-4 in a shootout to the Sudbury Wolves the next day. As a result of the single point earned, Guelph has fallen back to the pack a bit in the Western Conference, trailing the Greyhounds and London Knights by almost double digits.

They’re still well established as a playoff team, but aren’t keeping up with the conference powerhouses.

On an encouraging note for Merkley, he did record a season-high seven shots on goal in the loss to the Wolves. His previous high this season was five shots, and the seven in one game matched his entire shot total from the previous eight. He’s now averaging 1.7 shots a night, which is still behind the 2.28 mark from last season and 2.46 as a rookie.

He also recorded a goal, albeit on an attempted cross crease pass.

Merkley added an assist in the loss to the Greyhounds, so he’s now sitting on five goals and 33 assists through 27 games. He continues to lead all players at his position in scoring, and his assist total is good for second among all players, five behind Morgan Frost.

The Greyhounds forward has played five more games, though, meaning Merkley — the 18-year-old defenseman — is leading the OHL in assists per game with a rate of 1.22.

We’ll forgive him, then, for looking to pass more than he shoots, because he’s finding his teammates open sticks more than any other player in the league.

Still, Merkley would do well to keep this in mind:

It should also be noted that Merkley has been passed for the lead in team scoring, as Nate Schnarr, who has signed his entry-level deal with the Arizona Coyotes, is up to 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) through 26 games.

Up next:

It’s a busy week for the Storm with four games on tap, as the OHL gets set to take a break over the holiday.

Tuesday, Dec. 11 @ Owen Sound Attack
Friday, Dec. 14 vs. Peterborough Petes
Saturday, Dec. 15 vs. Mississauga Steelheads
Sunday, Dec. 16 @ Oshawa Generals

Bonus content, for the heck of it

As an added bonus, he’s helping us get in the holiday spirit despite the fact he’ll be staying at home instead of representing Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship.