Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google

Merrill a rock on defense for Team USA

Friday, 12.31.2010 / 10:06 AM / Features
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer
X
Share with your Friends


Merrill a rock on defense for Team USA\r\n
Jon Merrill
share
email
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Defenseman Jonathan Merrill isn't the most outspoken individual -- he prefers to do most of his talking on the ice. U.S. National Junior Team head coach Keith Allain has taken notice during the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
 
"Jon has been a rock for us," Allain said. "I think he's really played better each game we've had him … through our exhibition schedule series and now three games into the tournament. Quietly, he's a leader by his presence, so we're really pleased with what he's done so far."
 
When pressed to provide any insight into Merrill's demeanor within the locker room or around the coach, Allain shook his head and laughed.

"I'm sorry, I have no little Merrill stories," he said.
 
Strangely, even Merrill can't determine how or even when his personality took shape.
 
"I don't know, it kind of comes from myself," Merrill told NHL.com. "I don't think any of my parents are like that at all, actually, I think my mindset came along when I was little. I kind of take life as it comes to me I guess."
 
Merrill is actually one of two players on the American roster currently starring at the University of Michigan -- wing Chris Brown is the other. The big defenseman leads the freshman class in scoring with 11 points, including 3 goals.
 
"Once you get to know him, he begins to open up," Brown said. "When he starts feeling more comfortable with the people he's around, like friends or teammates, he's open. He's a focused kid and in a tournament like this, you have to remain focused. He's funny when he wants to be, but he's a little reserved at times. But that's him, it's how he goes about his business."
 
Much like he does when opposing forwards are flying down wing with the hope of curling the 6-foot-3, 209-pound product of Brighton, Mich. The pairing of Merrill and captain John Ramage has been virtually lights-out for the Americans through three games.
 
"I think his calm demeanor reflects how he plays too," Ramage said. "He's kind of a goofy kid and a good guy to be around. He's a two-way defenseman who has a lot of offensive abilities, and is also very good defensively, so he makes it very easy to play with."
 
Merrill, who is playing in his first WJC, leads his defense in scoring with 3 assists and 4 points while Ramage sports a plus-2 rating.
 
"It's exciting to put on that USA jersey and represent your country, especially on a big stage like this because it means so much," Merrill said. "I still remember pre-camp as if it were yesterday because everyone is so uptight and tense … kind of on edge those first few exhibition games. But it's good for the team to have to compete and earn these things. Nothing is given to you."
 
Having success on an international level is nothing new to Merrill, who was named one of Team USA's best three players during Team USA's gold-medal winning effort at the 2010 World Men's Under-18 Championship in Belarus.
 
"He's a special player, has great vision, great hands," Brown said. "He also has that hockey sense and when you combine all those things and put a physical aspect to it, you get Jon."
 
Merrill also participated at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, producing 3 assists in seven games against teams from Finland, Sweden and the U.S. Wherever he's played, Merrill has been a solid defensive contributor and has provided a little offense to boot.
 
"I try to be smart, starting with defense in my own end and, if I see an opportunity, jump up in the rush," Merrill said. "I'll jump up and pick my spots and, luckily, I've had some success so that's great."
 
Merrill admitted he hasn't paid much attention to the team that drafted him in the second round (No. 38) of the 2010 Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils. While he is privy to their struggles this season, his focus is on doing everything he can to improve and one day make the big club.
 
"I know they're not having the best year, but other than that, I haven't really had time to talk to anyone at the organization," Merrill said. "To be honest, I'm just taking it day by day and not looking too far ahead."
 
Brown, selected in the second round (No. 35) by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009, feels fortunate to have Merrill as a teammate at Michigan since it's almost impossible to beat the guy in practice.
 
"He's just so smart with the puck … and the plays he makes," Brown said. "He controls the game and controls what the other team needs to do to defend him. It's so hard, even in practice, because his stick is that good. When you're going down one-on-one against him, his position to the net is amazing."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51