Tuesday, 15 January 2013 14:49

No murky thoughts about getting Merkley

Written by  Brad Brown
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The choice between the first and third overall picks from the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft was a no-brainer for Mark Lamb.

So three days before the Jan. 10 trade deadline, the Swift Current Broncos’ general manager pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire 17-year-old forward Jay Merkley from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The cost for Merkley, taken third by ‘Canes in 2010: Injured 19-year-old winger Josh Derko, currently recovering from a broken ankle suffered before Christmas, and a third-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Merkley came to the Broncos with 14 goals in 44 games this season alone. Derko had 13 total in 143 career games with Swift Current.
“It was no secret that I was looking for the type of player that we got,” said Lamb. “I’d inquired about him a couple months earlier and ... it’s a significant, big deal for this organization.”
Also available in the established-1995-born-scorer category was disgruntled Prince George centre Alex Forsberg.
Lamb was one of many to inquire about 2010’s top pick but wasn’t prepared to blow up a roster he’s worked so hard to assemble.
“We got the ’95 player that we wanted,” said Lamb, “so my price tag of where I thought we could go was not even close to where Prince George had Forsberg at. (Prince George GM Dallas Thompson) just said if he didn’t get what the price was he wasn’t going to trade him, and he didn’t trade him.”
Forsberg was assigned to junior A while Merkley, who waived a no-trade clause to consummate the trade, buried two goals and added an assist in his first two games with the Broncos.
His first goal, a tap-in at the side of the net, was the insurance marker in a 5-2 win Jan. 9 over the Red Deer Rebels. His second was the game-winner Jan. 11 against the East Division-leading Prince Albert Raiders, a 3-1 victory.
“I was very impressed with him,” Lamb said of Merkley’s debut. “We know what he is. He’s an offensive guy. He’s very weighted, gifted to the offensive part of the game. But I told him I’m not going to judge you on your goal scoring.
“If you come in here and don’t score at the start, I’m going to judge you on your work ethic, how hard you compete, how you follow systems and how you follow the game plan. I thought he played great.”
To hear Merkley tell it, he’s just grateful for the extra responsibility he’s been given.
He suited up in each of his first two games alongside Graham Black on the Broncos’ second line, and saw first-unit power play time too with Adam Lowry and Coda Gordon.
“In simple terms, there was just no room for me to move up in Lethbridge,” said Merkley. “I felt like this would be a better opportunity for myself.
“I was playing a third-line role and that’s not really the type of player I am. I’m not a big checker or trying to prevent goals. I like to be more on the offensive side of things.”
The other wish on Lamb’s list — an 18 or 19-year-old defenceman — went unfulfilled before the deadline, despite some close calls the day before. There was less urgency on that front given the Broncos’ defence currently ranks third in the Eastern Conference.
“What every team was looking for was depth defencemen, and there just weren’t a lot of them out there,” he said.

Read 3839 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 09:11

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