Ryan Merkley isn’t even 20.
But it feels like he’s been in the public eye forever, doesn’t it?
Since the Guelph Storm made the 15-year-old the No. 1 pick in the 2016 OHL Draft, Merkley has experienced a series of very public ups and downs.
In his rookie season, there was a bench argument with his head coach. Despite top-five talent, questions about his maturity and defensive commitment caused him to drop to No. 21 in the 2018 NHL Draft to the San Jose Sharks. Even last year, Merkley was subjected to an outlandish rumor that he had been sent down to a Junior B team.
But through it all, Merkley has continued to produce: His 269 career points is the most among all 2000-born OHL defensemen. And by most accounts, his temperament and defensive game have improved by leaps and bounds.
Turning 20 this Friday, the San Jose Sharks’ top prospect is now getting ready for his first pro season from his Oakville, Ontario home.
San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Merkley, who spoke candidly about how he used to “coast” on the ice, what’s inspired him to get ahold of his emotions, and what he’s learned from Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He also reflected on the dark side of being a teenage hockey celebrity in Canada and how he and his parents have learned to cope with the overwhelming attention.
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