Photo Credit: Andre Emond
The Canadian forward might have put up 1.43 points-per-game in the QMJHL last season, but just because the Newfoundland native has some offensive chops don’t for one second think that he is an offense only player. His diligence in his own end is one of the major reasons that he found his way onto this Canadian World Juniors roster at 18, and one of the big reasons he went #18 overall to the New Jersey Devils. It is therefore no surprise as to who he patterned his game off.
“Patrice Bergeron is someone I want to model my game after. I had his jersey as a kid growing up… obviously I like the way he plays. I am sure every GM would love to have him on their team, and just a guy who works everything in the DZ first then into the OZ. He plays in all situations perfectly.”
His hockey IQ is a major reason that he is able to excel up and down the ice, but Mercer also takes pride in working as hard as possible every shift. IQ is arguably the most important attribute for a player to excel in the NHL, and the young Devils draftee, when analysing his own game, points to on ice intelligence alongside his work ethic as where he “wins”.
“I would say my (best attributes are) hockey IQ and hockey sense first of all, and then I would say my work ethic and competitiveness. I never give up on any play, always going, going, going. I like to play a three-way game, take care of the defensive zone, transition in the neutral zone, and move into the OZ to help my team win.”
While he played a limited role at the World Juniors he took it in his stride, and is a versatile, team-oriented player who can adapt to whatever comes his way, something that should help the Devils down the line. Especially given the talent they have down the middle and Mercer’s ability to play wing.
“That is just something you have to realise coming into tournaments like that. You are coming in with all the best u-20 players. I wanted to make sure I was getting my name on this roster and I made sure that I would do anything to be here. That is another positive with my game, I find, that I have a wide variety of different kind of playing styles. Being one of the more skilful guys sometimes, but other games I can be the hardest workhorse out there.”
It is easy to see how the man from Conception Bay could grow into a legitimate 1st line forward who contributes in all zones, at all strengths, potentially alongside either Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes in the not so distant future. In terms of what he needs to improve on to get to that level? Mercer himself points to two areas, and even has a timeframe in mind for achieving those goals.
“I feel right now – by the time I am 22 I want to be a lot stronger and faster. So I think that is the biggest thing I have to work on to get my game to the next level, as speed is the main aspect of the game these days, everything is at a higher pace, so I feel that is a major aspect for every player. But I want to get myself in a stronger position.”
If Mercer’s personal timeframe for adding strength and speed come to fruition, the Devil’s may well have as well-rounded a RW as you can find, playing at a high level in an NHL top-six by 2023-24.
*this interview took place at the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic*
Check out our Dawson Mercer scouting report for more details on his skill-set.
Interview post written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alexander on Twitter, his handle is @Avappleyard.