Photo Credit: Andre Emond
Dawson Mercer is the top 2020 NHL Draft prospect from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mercer hails from Carbonear, Newfoundland (also the hometown of former Detroit Red Wings forward, Daniel Cleary). The right winger played bantam hockey with Tri Pen and U16/U18 hockey at Bishop’s College School (the same school that Noah Dobson of the New York Islanders attended).
At the 2017 QMJHL Draft, Mercer was taken eighth overall by the Drummondville Voltigeurs. That fall, he made his QMJHL debut and played in 61 games for the Voltigeurs, in which he recorded 11 goals and 15 assists.
In his 2018-19 campaign, Mercer caught the attention of NHL scouts. He managed to record 30 goals and 34 assists in 68 games played. While it seemed like a tough act to follow, Mercer out-performed his 2018-19 numbers in a shortened 2019-20 season (because of COVID-19). Even though he did not surpass his 2018-19 point total, if Mercer played in a full regular season, he would have passed it with flying colors.
To kick off the season, he played in 26 games with the Voltigeurs and mustered up 18 goals and 24 assists. Mercer and his former teammate Xavier Simoneau (’20) provided Drummondville with a solid one-two punch. In addition, Thimo Nickl (’20) and Jacob Dion (’20) emerged as strong contributors on the backend.
Due to his production in Drummondville, Hockey Canada U20 World Junior Championship head coach, Dale Hunter chose to include Mercer in his 2020 World Junior Roster. Mercer played alongside quite a few 2020 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Alexis Lafrenière, Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale and Nico Daws. The Newfoundland prospect did not record a point in seven World Junior games, but you have to keep in mind that he was not getting a ton of minutes as he spent most of the tournament on the fourth line.
After the World Juniors concluded, the Voltigeurs ended up trading Mercer to the Chicoutimi Saguenéens before the QMJHL Trade Deadline. The Saguenéens were looking to put together a competitive lineup to take on the Rimouski Océanic and the Moncton Wildcats down the stretch. But, COVID-19 made it’s way to Canada and cut the season short. Prior to the pandemic dead-halting the season, Mercer had quickly developed a rapport with his Chicoutimi teammates and tallied six goals and 12 assists in 16 games played.
He is not the only Mercer looking to take his talents to the NHL level. His brother, Riley Mercer (’22) is a 6’1/185 lbs goaltending prospect and was selected in the second round of the 2020 QMJHL Entry Draft by the Voltigeurs.
D.O.B – October 27, 2001
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Mercer’s Style Of Play
When you watch Dawson Mercer, you quickly notice that he has explosive speed. At first, Mercer tends to extend his leg further out to help spark his acceleration. Once he has garnered enough speed, he will start to limit how far he goes with his leg extension. In the clip below that Andy Lehoux of Future Considerations Hockey tweeted out, you can see Mercer tends to change his extension length in the neutral zone. Unfortunately, at the 15:19 mark in the first period, we see Mercer use a wide glide at the hash marks, which hurts his mobility and drags down his speed. If Mercer tightened up his stance, he would have a far better chance of capitalizing.
While Mercer’s speed was strong in Drummondville, I noticed that his skating worsened after the trade with Chicoutimi. After arriving in Chicoutimi, his speed was still a big factor in his game, but Mercer developed a heavy foot and appeared to run instead of completing an extension and full recovery. In the below clip, you will notice that while Mercer still managed to pick up a lot of speed on the rush, but he is not completely his stride recovery. His foot never returns underneath the torso.
Both, Chicoutimi and Drummondville tested Mercer at center for a few games. Given his speed and the Hendrix Lapierre (’20) health concerns, it made sense for Chicoutimi head coach Yanick Jean to test him out at center, but for Mercer to be more effective at center, his skating needs improvement. In my opinion, Mercer would benefit from power skating instruction. If he can further round out his extension/recovery, his mobility will be robust and will be dominant in all three zones.
Aside from his skating, Mercer has great hands. It does not matter if he is on the rush or trying to circumvent tight defense, he manages to stick-handle around his opponents and keep the play alive. Kevin Papetti from Maple Leafs Hot Stove discussed Mercer’s stick-handling in a tweet back in May and mentioned that Mercer “plays heavy, and can stick handle in a phone booth”. Papetti is right on the nose when it comes to Mercer’s handy work. The Newfoundland native can stick-handle with his non-dominant hand to get around traffic and can manage to maneuver the puck around pressure from multiple opponents. In the clip below from Cam Robinson of Elite Prospects Rinkside and Dobber Prospects, you can check out Mercer on the rush and swerving the puck around his opponent with his left hand.
In the defensive zone, Mercer will shift between the slot and the half-wall. Along the half-wall, he plays a tight defensive game and will use his body to apply pressure in an effort to shut down the cycle. Not only does Mercer show decent physical traits along the boards, but he will also play an insurance role when his teammates are completing a back-check. Outside of physical and insurance play along the boards, when he is patrolling in the defensive slot, his mobility becomes his kryptonite. Given his wide glide (that I spoke about earlier), he has difficulty adjusting to new quick developments in the cycle. Once a power skating instructor addresses his wide skating/glide, his mobility will strengthen and his defensive play will improve as a result.
In the offensive zone, Mercer finds the most success when he is high-danger situations. He thrives at the crease and scored plenty of rebound goals in the latter half of the season with Chicoutimi. I had noticed that the majority of the goals that were scored after the trade were not from range and came centimeters away from the opposing net-minder. When Mercer was in Drummondville, he managed to score more goals from beyond the low slot and doorstep. For example, below you can see a goal that Mercer scored from just outside of the hash-marks.
From a passing perspective, Mercer is a strong tape-to-tape passer, but you should not expect Mavrik Bourque or Seth Jarvis like passing. Mercer is not someone who finds tight gaps to slingshot passes through. In addition, when receiving passes, occasionally Mercer will struggle to connect on one-timer passes. He will collect the pass, but his shot goes far wide instead of on net.
Nick Suzuki, Center, Montréal Canadiens
Like Suzuki, Mercer exhibits quality speed and has soft hands. Ultimately, Suzuki is a stronger skater at this point, but if Mercer can work his stride, there is a chance that he could be a slightly bigger Suzuki.
stats from EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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