When the OHL’s Peterborough Petes released their training camp roster last week, star defenseman Ryan Merkley was suspiciously absent. The San Jose Sharks 2018 first-round pick was only acquired by the Petes midway through last season and was expected to play a major role for the team this year. However, that won’t be the case. Merkley’s agent, J.P. Barry, relayed to Mike Davies of The Peterborough Examiner that he has been informed that Peterborough is working to trade Merkley and do not plan to begin the season with him on the roster. Petes GM Mike Oke confirmed as much, telling Davies that “We’ve decided we’re going to go in a different direction. Finding another opportunity for Ryan would probably be best for everybody… [W]e just felt it wasn’t the right fit.” Oke stated that no specific incident led to the team’s decision on Merkley, but this is hardly the first time that the young blue liner has worn out his welcome. A player that has continuously been followed by rumors of immature behavior and poor sportsmanship, Merkley was thought to have been initially traded to Peterborough from the Guelph Storm under similar circumstances. These personality concerns also likely played a factor in Merkely’s drop to No. 21 overall last year, as his offensive ability might have otherwise warranted a higher draft slot. Nevertheless, the Sharks remain committed to their prospect defender and Oke and Barry are certain that Merkley is still a valuable commodity in the OHL. In fact, the Petes expect to get a similar package back in a trade as what they gave up for him: a top young player and a package of high picks. Merkley is a talented player – he has recorded 193 points in 188 career OHL games – and will get a fair shake at Sharks training camp, but his defensive ability still needs work and he will almost certainly end up back in the OHL this season. The question is with who and whether his continued behavioral issues will follow him to his next stop as well.
- Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Marcus Karlberg will also be playing somewhere different this season. The 19-year-old forward, a 2018 third-round pick, has been loaned to a new club for the 2019-20 season. AIK of Sweden’s second-tier pro league, the Allsvenskan, announced that they have acquired Karlberg’s services from Leksands IF for the coming season. Karlberg was a near point-per-game player for Leksands’ U-20 SuperElit team early last season before being promoted and recording 11 points in 44 games in the Allsvenskan. Karlberg had clearly outgrown the junior level, but with Leksands earning a promotion to the SHL, the team was likely wary of moving the young forward to Sweden’s top pro level. Karlberg’s growing ability is obvious – he is a fast, hard-working forward who doesn’t let his small frame limit him – but remaining in the Allsvenskan for another year is likely a better developmental move. AIK hope that he can break out and perhaps contribute to another promotion-worthy campaign.
- While he can barely be considered a prospect anymore, Russian defenseman Maxim Chudinov is already back to impressing in the KHL. Likely one of the best players in the world never to try his hand at the NHL, Chudinov still remains Boston Bruins property as a 2010 seventh-round pick. The 29-year-old rearguard has been playing in the KHL since even before the Bruins took a flier on him and has become well-known for his top two-way play and even more so for his howitzer of a shot. Chudinov put his slapper on display in the KHL’s season opener yesterday, scoring from behind his own blue line. Amazingly, this is the third time in this calendar year alone that Chudinov has accomplished that unthinkable task. A multiple-time Gagarin Cup champion and KHL All-Star, it’s possible that Chudinov could finally decide he wants a new challenge in his career and the Bruins would surely welcome him with open arms, despite their depth on defense. However, with his 30th birthday arriving this season, it’s more likely that Chudinov will simply remain a “what could have been” for NHL fans.