Can doing the exact same thing two years in a row be grounds for moving up the Top 25 Under 25 Countdown? If that thing is leading your team in goal-scoring and impressing your team's scouts, than yes.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Nationality||Draft||Vote Total||Last Year|
|15||Michael Mersch||10/2/1992||USA||110 (4th)||155||23 (+8)
Michael Mersch couldn't achieve too much more in his final season at Wisconsin than he did in his first three. Still, the right winger found a way to add a couple more achievements to the list. He once again was named to the All Big Ten first team, and topped that by earning a spot on the West's second All-American team. Browsing the list of recent All-American teams shows some interesting names; guys like Gustav Nyquist, Carl Hagelin, and Matt Read blossomed after getting second-team nods, while all three of the 2012 Western forward honorees have already gotten time at the NHL level. (Current Kings prospect Brian O'Neill made the Eastern squad that season, but he was already 24 years old at that point.) Oh, and the most recent Los Angeles King to make the NCAA jump and become a full-time NHLer was a 2008 second-team All American. You know the name.
The comparisons to past All-Americans don't do a whole lot of good, though. NCAA prospects can be a very mixed bag, and Mersch certainly fits a different mold than the dynamic Nyquist or the lightning-fast Hagelin. (I still have nightmares about him, most of which involve pucks bouncing off Slava Voynov.) The more fruitful comparisons are to recent young players who have moved up in the Kings organization, and they are really encouraging comparisons for Mersch. Scouting reports generally list skating as Mersch's biggest weakness, but Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have proven that to be the furthest thing from a death sentence. Skating certainly appears to be more teachable than size, or hockey sense, or the ability to do this:
That bodes well for Michael Mersch going forward. So does Michael Futa's assertion that Mersch has "a pro-style game."
We didn't learn too much about Mersch that we didn't already know this year. His NHLe projection based on 2013-14 was literally identical to the projection based on 2012-13. Thankfully, the Kings are going to get an excellent chance to evaluate what they really have in Mersch, because he's going to be a Manchester Monarch this season. In a cup of coffee last season, Mersch picked up four points in seven games, including his first two professional goals in a 5-0 win over Portland. The top-six ranks have thinned out due to trade (Vey, Kozun) and promotion (Pearson, Toffoli), so Mersch will have every opportunity to contribute. He was also a huge weapon on Wisconsin's power play, which should help him see the ice regularly.
Even if he isn't a true game-breaker at the NHL level, I could absolutely see him following the Dwight King path: big-bodied, capable of the occasional scoring hot streak, and able to positively impact possession numbers. Like most of the forward hopefuls in the Kings' organization, Mersch won't get a sniff this season, but a 2016 stretch run appearance with the Kings in need of a spark or an injury replacement? It's not a stretch.