Saturday: The Bruins have indeed officially signed Merkulov, inking him to a three-year deal that begins next season. The deal will carry an AAV of $925K. Merkulov will join AHL Providence on an ATO for the rest of this season.
Friday: The Boston Bruins could be adding another interesting undrafted college free agent, as Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News tweets that he hears Georgi Merkulov will be signing with the team, though he then clarified that nothing has been finalized to this point.
Merkulov, 21, recently finished his freshman season at Ohio State, where he scored 20 goals and 34 points in 36 games. That impressive performance came after spending two years in the USHL, a relatively unique path for a Russian-born and trained player. For those that watched him play this season, it’s easy to see why Merkulov would draw NHL interest, as he was often the best player on the ice for the Buckeyes and easily led the team in both goals and points.
In fact, it was Mason Lohrei, Boston’s second-round pick from 2020, that came closest to him in scoring this season racking up 29 points of his own. The Bruins would likely have seen Merkulov up close on many occasions because of their interest in Lohrei, and should know exactly what he brings to the table.
Like any other college signing, there is very little risk for the team and it provides a sort of lottery ticket similar to a late-round pick. Given how much draft capital the Bruins gave up for Hampus Lindholm at the deadline, adding players like this will be necessary over the next few years. If Merkulov can make an impact–and so far, it’s hard to bet against him–draft picks suddenly become a lot less important as the team continues to chase down another Stanley Cup.