Nick Merkley has agreed to a three-year entry-level contract with Arizona. He was taken with the 30th overall selection.
That draft pick originally belonged to the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Coyotes acquired it along with Klas Dahlbeck in exchange for Antoine Vermette on Feb. 28. Vermette won the Stanley Cup with Chicago before returning to the Coyotes this summer on a two-year, $7.5 million deal.
Merkley had 20 goals and 90 points in 72 games with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets last season. He scored another five goals and 27 points in 19 playoff games to help the Rockets win the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Kelowna went all the way to the Memorial Cup championship game before falling to the Oshawa Generals in overtime. Merkley recorded three goals and two assists in the tournament.
While Strome might make the Coyotes’ opening game roster, it would be more surprising if Merkley did the same. Still, he’s part of an impressive collection of forward prospects that Arizona has assembled in recent years. While Arizona’s offense was a big weakness last season, in a few years it might be the squad’s strength and Merkley could be a significant part of that.