Dawson Mercer has to prove himself as ready for the NHL after dominating juniors last season. The opportunity is there for his taking. He scored 36 points in 23 regular-season games for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He added 17 points in 9 postseason games. Mercer had about as good of a season as the Devils could have hoped.
Mercer fell to the Devils at 18 overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. It felt like a steal at the time, and it looks even better now. He mixes elite playmaking ability with an incredible Hockey IQ. He can break ankles like Allen Iverson while keeping the puck within striking distance. It’s incredible to watch Mercer play.
As a center, Mercer would bring the highest offensive upside to the group. If the Devils want to try to outrun other teams with Hughes-Hischier-Mercer-McLeod down the middle, it would give them a huge advantage.
If Ruff were to pick Mercer as the third-line center, then he would have to be very careful with who he chose as his wingers. He probably couldn’t go with a complete rookie line with Mercer in the middle. He’d need players with more experience. It would be interesting to see someone like Tatar on the line, but it’s very likely he goes in the top six. Miles Wood would be another intriguing option since Ruff has been open to moving him off McLeod’s line in the past.