Eagan’s Merchant impressive at Wild prospect camp
Mr. Hockey finalist to play at U of Maine
Will Merchant wasn’t selected in the NHL Draft in June, but that doesn’t end the Eagan High School graduate’s professional hockey ambitions. At least one team is very familiar with him.
That would be the Minnesota Wild, which invited Merchant to its prospect camp earlier this month and watched him make the most of it. He skated with the top young players in the Minnesota system – including Mikael Granlund, who is projected to be the Wild’s second-line center in 2012-13 – and scored a goal in the final scrimmage of the camp.
The scrimmage took place before 7,500 fans at Xcel Energy Center on a mid-summer Sunday. Merchant has played in front of bigger crowds at the “X” as a member of Eagan teams that played in the state high school tournament the last two years. Still, the turnout left an impression.
“That says this really is the state of hockey,” Merchant said.
Other local players attending the prospect camp included two former Apple Valley High School players: A.J. Michaelson, who has signed with the University of Minnesota, and Kyle Medvec, who played with the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate in Houston last season.
Merchant, who is headed to the University of Maine, said he thought he was able to hold his own at the camp.
“I thought I did really well for my first time there,” he said. “I was able to compete and play my game.
“The speed and size of the players was the biggest adjustment for me. Everybody out there is big, but I got an idea of what it’ll be like in college.”
The day after the draft, Merchant got a text message inviting him to the prospect camp. He didn’t have to think it over for long before accepting.
“I was a little disappointed about not being drafted because I thought I would be picked,” he said. “But playing in the prospect camp was a good thing, for sure.”
Merchant is eligible to be drafted in 2013 and 2014. If he is not selected next year, he can go back to the Wild’s prospect camp. If he is drafted, he likely would go to the prospect camp of the team that chooses him.
He had 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists) in his senior season for an Eagan team that was 25-5-1, won the South Suburban Conference and Section 3AA championships, and finished sixth in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward was a Mr. Hockey Award finalist.
Merchant will join Maine this fall. The Black Bears were 23-14-3 last season and reached the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament.
“They’re a really fast team that likes to play physical,” Merchant said. “I like to do that too, so I think it’s a good fit for me. I’ve got to keep working on my skating; I’ve been working out four or five times a week this summer.”
The school also recruited Eagan defenseman Sam Wolfe, who is expected to play junior hockey in 2012-13 before going to Maine the following season.
Two other seniors on the 2011-12 Eagan team, Michael Zajac (Princeton) and Eli May (Minnesota State, Mankato), also signed with Division I programs. The surprise, in this day and age of high school hockey, is they all remained at Eagan through their senior seasons. It has become common for top high school players to leave for Junior A teams or the USA Hockey national program in Ann Arbor, Mich., in an attempt to accelerate their development.
“Some of us had opportunities to go elsewhere if we wanted to,” Merchant said.”But we grew up playing together. We finished third in the state tournament our junior year, and we wanted one more chance to see if we could do better.”