Patrice Bergeron is one of the most complete centres in the NHL and someone every NHL team would love to have on its roster. Dawson Mercer wants to be the next Bergeron, and some scouts think he can do it.
Mercer took big strides in the QMJHL this season, both in his on-ice production and big-game experience. Now, the Newfoundlander is ready to bring his scoring touch and high hockey IQ to the next level.
Watch Round 1 of the NHL Draft on Sportsnet and SN NOW beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then catch Rounds 2-7 on SN1 and SN NOW starting at from 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Here’s everything you need to know about the next hockey star from The Rock.
Age: 18 (Oct. 27, 2001)
Weight: 179 pounds
Current team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
Never takes a shift off
Mercer finished the season with 24 goals and 60 points in only 42 games — due to Team Canada commitments and a late-season injury — but he’s much more than just an offensive player. The 18-year-old can fill any role on his team, whether it be centre or right wing, and on the power play or penalty kill.
He credits his high hockey IQ and strong work ethic for allowing him to play that way. He can be the first player on the forecheck, wearing opponents down or he can create offence from the top of the circle with his hard shot and quick hands, depending on what his team needs.
In the first half of the season, as a member of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Mercer was a top-line scorer on a rebuilding team. But after a trade to the championship-chasing Chicoutimi Saguenéens, Mercer joined stars like Raphaël Lavoie, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Félix Bibeau and was no longer relied on for his offence. While his production went down with the Saguenéens, he still found other ways to contribute by winning faceoffs and killing penalties.
“I’ve got a motor that I like to keep going,” Mercer said in an interview with NHL.com. “I don’t like to give anything up or give up on a play. I want to be at my best in all three zones. When you keep going to higher levels, there’s only a little difference between each player and you want to be on the right side of that. I feel like these little qualities I have will give me the extra boost, whether it’s having a positive attitude, giving 100 per cent and not taking a shift off, being hard on your checks. All those little things matter and I take pride in doing those things well.”
Models his game after Patrice Bergeron
As an average-sized right-shot centre, Mercer idolizes Bergeron and his ability to fill whatever role his team needs.
“He’s the type of guy that I’m sure every player would like to be like,” Mercer said on the BTS Hockey podcast.
NHL Central Scouting’s J-F Damphousse compared Mercer to Bergeron in an interview with the NHL Draft Class podcast, citing his reliability in all zones as the reasons.
“I really like Dawson’s game. He’s a true competitor, he’s passionate, he loves playing the game,” Damphousse said. “I don’t like comparing players but if I had to compare I think he could become a little bit like Patrice Bergeron. Someone that can bring a lot of offence but is also reliable in his own zone, winning faceoffs, battling down low for loose pucks.”
A magnetic personality
Mercer has shown this season that he can be a leader on his team and in the community. He was an assistant captain with the Voltigeurs and on Team Red at the CHL Top Prospects game and also a finalist for the QMJHL’s Personality of the Year award, which goes to “a player who had a positive media impact and helped improve the league’s image throughout the 2019-2020 season.”
Mercer had a busy year, playing games for two QMJHL teams as well as in the CHL Canada-Russia series, the World Juniors and the CHL Top Prospects game. But his coaches say he had no problem adjusting to any of his new situations.
“He jelled with the guys right away when he arrived,” Chicoutimi coach Yanick Jean told NHL.com. “He has a magnetic personality. Everybody likes to hang out with that kind of person. It is huge having a guy like him, for a coach. When you have a player who plays both ways like he does, when you can generate offence like he does, he plays extremely well on both special-teams units, as good on the wing as he does at centre, it’s huge for our team.”
With the NHL scouting combine cancelled, Mercer has been meeting with teams over video instead and making the most of the situation.
“Whether it’s FaceTime or Zoom, NHL teams are still getting a good insight into who I am,” he said in an interview with The Telegram. “I’m well-spoken and able to communicate with others, and I think that shows the qualities of maturity and leadership, on the ice and off the ice.”
From NL to the NHL
Mercer is proud of being from Newfoundland and is honoured to represent his province on the hockey stage.
He could be just the seventh player from Newfoundland selected in the first round of the NHL Draft and only 27 players from The Rock have skated in the NHL, the fewest of any Canadian province.
“I’m from a small town, Bay Roberts, just 7,000 people about. A small town (where) you’re very close with the community and my family and I’m proud to be from there,” Mercer said in an interview with Sportsnet earlier this season. “It’s a special moment for me to be one of the few Nefoundlanders away from the island playing and having an opportunity in the QMJHL.”
Newfoundlanders taken in first round of NHL Draft
Mercer grew up in a hockey-loving family. His brother, Riley, is a goalie who was selected by Drummondville in the QMJHL draft earlier this summer, while his sister Jessica plays triple-A bantam hockey in Newfoundland.
It’s clear from listening to him speak that hockey is more than just a job for him. It’s everything.
“We’ve been growing up and living it our whole life. It was something we were never forced to do but we just loved it,” he said on the BTS Hockey podcast. “We like to go put in the work and have fun because work and hockey don’t feel like actual work. It’s work that we love to do.”
When Mercer was 15 he moved away from home to Bishop’s College private school in Quebec to increase his level of competition and he’s been playing in that province for four seasons now. But during the pandemic, he’s gotten to spend an extended amount of time at home, where he’s using a Bowflex machine and a pair of Rollerblades to stay in shape.
Even though his season ended early and he can’t get on ice right now, his focus hasn’t wavered. He wants to get bigger and stronger so that he can challenge for an NHL roster spot next season.
“It is what it is. I can’t change it at all,” he told the Journal Pioneer. “You have to look at the positive side and one way of doing that is to realize I have a lot more time to get ready for the draft and what comes after that.
“For me, that’s working at getting stronger, getting even quicker. I want to be able to show up to my first NHL (training) camp being ready to play with these older, more experienced players. So I want to use this time wisely, and not worry about what I know isn’t going to happen this year, which is the playoffs, and concentrate on what I know is coming and that’s the draft and next season.”
Hutchinson signs two-year contract with Maple Leafs – NHL.com
Michael Hutchison signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. It has an average annual value of $725,000 at the NHL level.
The 30-year-old goalie was 5-9-1 with a 3.47 goals-against average, .888 save percentage and one shutout in 16 games (12 starts) with the Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche last season.
Hutchinson started one game for the Avalanche, making 17 saves in a 2-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on March 2, after he was acquired in a trade with Toronto on Feb. 24.
He was the Avalanche’s third-string goalie entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs but was 2-1-0 with a 2.75 GAA and .910 save percentage in four games (three starts) after Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz each was injured.
Selected by the Boston Bruins in the third round (No. 77) of the 2008 NHL Draft, Hutchinson is 51-52-14 with a 2.80 GAA, .905 save percentage and five shutouts in 127 regular-season games (107 starts) with the Winnipeg Jers, Florida Panthers, Maple Leafs and Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs also signed forward Joey Anderson to a three-year, two-way contract on Friday. It has an average annual value of $750,000 at the NHL level.
Anderson, a restricted free agent, was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 10 for forward Andreas Johnsson.
Maple Leafs News & Rumors: O'Ree, Simmonds, Hallander & More – The Hockey Writers
In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll report on Willie O’Ree’s new book about his life and hockey. I’ll also update how two young Swedish prospects are currently doing in the Swedish Hockey League.
I’ll also share the news that Auston Matthews has invested in a Swedish rollerblade company. Finally, I’ll report that Michael Hutchison, a goalie most Maple Leafs fans certainly remember well – if not happily – re-signed with the team today. I’ll share reasons why the organization signed Hutchison later in this post.
Item One: Willie O’Ree Publishes New Book About His Life
An article in the Globe & Mail today contained a short review of Willie O’Ree’s new book Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player. What was most interesting to me was that Jarome Iginla wrote the foreword for the book, and the book jacket contains tributes to O’Ree from P.K. Subban, Grant Fuhr, and new Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds. (from “‘I’ve been blessed’: Willie O’Ree’s new book reflects on his time as the NHL’s first Black player,” Globe & Mail, 30/10/20)
Simmonds recalls learning about O’Ree when he was growing up in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. Simmonds’ parents made a special point of pointing out the history of hockey and especially teaching their son how important O’Ree was to the Black community.
As Simmonds put it, “With what he went through, for him to continue on the path to play, made him a trailblazer not only for Black players but for players of other ethnicities as well. He really means everything to me.”
For those who might be interested in reading the book, it is filled with O’Ree’s stories as told to Canadian journalist and filmmaker Michael McKinley. It shares O’Ree’s journey from growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to his NHL play, and then to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It also places O’Ree’s life and story squarely into the middle of the history of the civil rights movement by covering his experience facing segregation in the United States, including both the cheers and also the tirades from racists who attended NHL games.
In the end, after the difficulty of his life, O’Ree, who now lives in San Diego, California, shared his goal of working with McKinley to write the book. O’Ree noted: “In the book, I wanted people to know more about my hockey career. I wanted them to know what I have been involved with.”
Looking back, he summed up his life, “So many wonderful things happened in my lifetime, and I had never had an opportunity to share them. I’ve been blessed.”
It should be a good read.
Item Two: Two Young Maple Leafs Prospects Playing Well in the SHL
Even though most hockey in North America is on hold, the Maple Leafs have prospects playing in Europe as a way to continue their development. Two of these are young Swedes Filip Hallander and Pontus Holmberg.
Maple Leafs fans will recall that Hallander was a player general manager Kyle Dubas was seeking at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. However, Hallander went to the Pittsburgh Penguins as the 58th-overall selection. Dubas was able to retrieve him when Kasperi Kapanen was traded this offseason.
Hallander is a 20-year-old left-winger who’s now playing with Lulea (SHL). This season he started slowly, but he’s beginning to warm up on the score sheet. He’s shooting a ton and now has scored a goal and four assists in nine games. His reputation is that he’s good at puck possession and is willing to shoot the puck on net. He’s also known to have a high hockey IQ and is also good defensively. He plays with intelligence on all three zones of the ice.
Hallander will be coming to North America to start playing with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies soon – perhaps even this season. He fits a typical profile for a young Swedish forward – he’s smart, skilled, and is sound on both offense and defense.
It might take him a number of seasons, but the Maple Leafs will need to replenish its core of forwards sooner or later. It will be no surprise if Dubas sees Hallander as a valuable future roster piece.
Like Hallander, Holmberg was selected in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but he was a Maple Leafs selection during the sixth round (156th overall). Holmberg is a 21-year-old left-winger who also plays some center.
He’s currently skating with the Vaxjo Lakers and is suddenly beginning to score, which has been unusual. He now has four goals and two assists in 11 games this season. The entire last season, he only scored seven goals and 17 points in 52 games.
Part of his success can be attributed to the fact that Vaxjo has a much stronger team. Part is that Holmberg is more comfortable in his role with the team. Right now, he’s playing for an NHL entry-level contract. However, he needs a good season for that to happen. Not every late-round draft choice is offered such a contract.
Maple Leafs fans will see if Holmberg’s scoring can be sustained. It obviously helps when a team isn’t constantly on its heels trying to protect against an offensive onslaught from a superior team game after game. When a team can mount some offense, positive things can happen.
Holmberg’s shown he’s a decent hockey player, but can he put up some points? If he can, he might become a good depth player in the Maple Leafs organization.
Item Three: Auston Matthews Is Getting Entrepreneurial
Yesterday, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that Maple Leafs star player Auston Matthews had become an investor in the Swedish roller-skating company Marsblade. He’s known to have put up between $1 and $1.5 million.
What’s Next with the Maple Leafs?
It seems as if Dubas is preparing the organization for the Seattle Expansion Draft scheduled for June 2021. Today, there was news the Maple Leafs had re-signed Michael Hutchison to a two-year contract. There’s no doubt that Hutchinson probably won’t play for the Maple Leafs anytime soon because he’ll be the organization’s fourth-string goalie. However, it’s interesting to see what the organization is thinking about these days.
It also, to my mind, shows some humanity on the organization’s part. Hutchinson was facing a season without a paycheque. Now he has one, so it’s a win-win for both the organization and for the player.
Everything has a purpose. If you’re a Maple Leafs fan and you’re scratching your head about why Hutchison was signed, think no further than it’s a temporary set up for the expansion draft.
Report: Hinch, Tigers progressing on deal – TSN
A.J. Hinch might be getting another chance.
The Detroit Tigers and the former Houston Astros bench-boss have made progress in finalizing a deal, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.
The Tigers have made progress in finalizing a deal with A.J. Hinch to be their next manager, although the agreement is not yet completed.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 30, 2020
The report comes just a few days after Hinch’s season-long suspension stemming from the Astros sign-stealing scandal concluded when the World Series ended on Tuesday night.
Hinch spent five years as manager in Houston, going 481-329 in the regular-season and claimed a pair of American League pennants.
The Astros captured the 2017 World Series under Hinch, and registered three straight 100-or-more-win seasons.
At the age of 35, Hinch was named the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and spent parts of two season there in 2009 and 2010.
He was fired after losing 123 of his 212 games.
Hinch had a seven-year playing career as a catcher in the MLB and suited up 27 times for the Tigers in 2003.
His career also had stops in Oakland, Kansas City and Philadelphia.
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