Growing up as a kid playing hockey, your dream is to make the NHL when you get older. For Ryan Merkley, Alexander Romanov, Cam Hillis, and about 200 others, their dream came true last weekend. The NHL Draft is an exciting time for both players and fans as they come together for a weekend in June for a sneak peek at what their team might look like down the road.
How It All Began
Every NHL player has a story about how they got their love for the game. For Ryan Merkley, who got drafted 21st overall by the San Jose Sharks, hockey was about making friends. As a kid who moved, he mentioned that he got a late start to hockey at the age of 10. Merkley was not expected to go in the first round, but when he did, he said he was “shocked”. Merkley had an ear-to-ear grin on his face the entire interview.
In 2012-2013, Merkley joined the Toronto Canadiens as a Bantam and stayed in the organization before he joined the Guelph Storm in 2016-17. Merkley was also named the OHL Rookie of The Year while leading the Storm in goals with 13 goals. He has had two solid years offensively in Guelph with 25 goals and 97 assists in 125 games. Merkley also was a part of Canada U18 team that won gold in Hlinka. Merkley had six assists in five games during the tournament.
The biggest problem for Merkley seems to be his defensive ability. He has also gone through some off-ice issues as Ben Kerr mentioned in Merkley’s Scouting Report. Merkley plans on spending another year in Guelph before making the jump to the NHL. This gives him another year to mature and work on his off-ice attitude.
The dream of playing for the Montreal Canadiens finally came through for centre Cameron Hillis as he was drafted 66th overall by the Habs. Hillis is only 17 years old. When asked how it feels to be drafted at such a young age – Hillis turned 18 just a day after he was drafted – he said, “It feels like I just started playing hockey yesterday.”
Hillis played four years at St Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario before joining the Guelph Storm. In his final year at St Andrews he scored 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points in 58 games. He led the team in points and assists. Last year with Guelph he scored 20 goals and added 39 assists for 59 points in 60 games. He was named to the OHL First All-Rookie team and led all rookies in assists last year. Hillis will most likely spend another year in Guelph.
He was one of 40 players named to the Canadiens development camp. Hillis believes his biggest contribution to the Habs will be his hockey sense and compete level. Hillis was one of the nine draft picks that were invited to the Habs development Camp.
Alexander Romanov was drafted 38th overall by the Montreal Canadiens and will be added to Habs blue-liners in their system. The 18-year-old blue-liner has been compared to former Canadiens defencemen Alexi Emelin before Emelin got hurt. Romanov has spent his entire career in Russia, most recently with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of the MHL. Last year he scored seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. According to Colton Osmond in his Montreal Canadiens draft review, his agent Dan Millstein said that Romanov could be the steal of the draft and mentions that he would have gone in the top 10 if he played in Canada. It will be interesting to see how Romanov fits into the Habs system down the road.
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