The Journey: Prospects on the Cusp

Brad Phillips

2017-12-09

A few weeks ago I highlighted a few players that scored their first NHL. But that doesn’t happen without getting into your first NHL game. None of these players have achieved that feat yet but if they keep going the way they are that will come to an end, perhaps sooner rather than later.

 

Warren Foegele

Drafted out of a Canadian prep school, which isn’t exactly a bastion of NHL prospects, Foegele was always viewed as a project pick when the Carolina Hurricanes nabbed him in the third round in 2014. It’s been a bit of a journey for him. In his post-draft year he suited up for the University of New Hampshire alongside a couple of other Hurricanes prospects, Andrew Poturalski and Brett Pesce. Foegele held his own as a freshman with five goals and dishing out 11 helpers in 34 contests. For a bit of context UNH was a very top-heavy scoring team with four of their played scoring 14-plus goals and no other played having more than half a dozen. So Foegele’s was firmly in the middle-six range for the Wildcats. He played only five games in his sophomore season before pulling the chute and heading to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. His first Major Junior year saw him produce 48 points in 52 games. In his second year he improved his output for the Fronts by registering 31 points in 28 contests but was traded mid-season to the Erie Otters. His pace slowed down very slightly but still managed to put up 32 points in 33 regular season games for the Otters. He really took off in the playoffs though scoring 13 times and assisting on 13 others en route to an OHL championship and the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as OHL playoff MVP. Foegele is 21 games into his pro career and is more than holding his own. To date he’s found the back of the net 12 times and had a hand in five other goals to give him 17 points on the year. He leads Charlotte in the goal scoring department and is in a five-way tie for third in the AHL. Perhaps his most impressive feat has been that four of his 12 goals have come short-handed, an AHL best. And all of this on only 41 shots, which has helped him tie for the lead in rookie goal scoring.

 

Nick Merkley

I’ll admit that in the proceoding two years of Merkley being drafted, my enthusiasm for him as a prospect has waned a bit. In his final two junior seasons he didn’t show the progress one would hope to see from a first round pick. This might be an unfair judgment given that if he had gone only one pick later he’d be a second round pick and there wouldn’t be nearly as much perceived pressure on him. But there’s just something about