The New Jersey Devils top defensive prospect Jon Merrill has been reported close to leaving the University of Michigan and sign a three year entry-level contract with the Devils. The deal does not start until the 2013-2014 season so Merrill would take an amateur tryout for Albany. The 21-year-old defenseman still has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, but is going to opt out and being playing at the next level.
Merrill was selected 38th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He is a 6-foot 3-inch 209 pound big body. Merrill has a tendency to always know where to be on the ice and has been known as a great quarterback for the power play. He has great stick skills and good hands. However, for a defenseman he could work on his defensive skills a little bit more. He is also known to be a little immature at times.
In three years playing for the Wolverines, Merrill recorded 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 86 games. He missed half of his sophomore year after being suspended for violating team rules, that is an example of his immaturity. He also missed the first half of this season after fracturing a vertebrae.
Merrill has been compared to a Ryan Suter type defenseman with some offensive skills. Merrill will most likely not play in the NHL next season, but could be a top-two defenseman within the next few years.
There is no reason to rush him up into the league. Many top prospects have seen problems after being brought up into the show early. Also, the Devils have some great defenseman already on their NHL roster, this gives Merrill some more time to develop over the next few seasons.