With the No. 14 pick, the Oilers select… Dawson Mercer?

Leading up to the NHL draft, I’ll be profiling 10 players who the Oilers could consider taking with the No. 14 pick. Today, we have Dawson Mercer. 

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This year’s draft features so many high-quality forwards that a player like Dawson Mercer manages to fall a little under the radar.

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Being a late-October birthday, Mercer is one of the older first-year eligible players in this year’s class, making him a refined talent that shouldn’t be too far away from stepping in and helping an NHL team.

He was one of just four 2020 draft-eligible skaters to play on Team Canada’s gold medal-winning squad last winter. The other three were Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, and Jamie Drysdale, all of whom are projected to be selected at the top of the draft.

Mercer beat out players like the 2020 draft-eligible Cole Perfetti, who posted 110 points in the OHL last season, and 2019 first-round picks like Philip Tomasino and Samuel Poulin, which is a testament to how mature of a player he is.

Dawson Mercer

Date of Birth: October 27, 2001

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Country: Canada 

Position: Centre and Right Wing

Height: 6’0″ / 183 cm

Weight: 179 lbs / 81 kg

Ranked #13 by TSN/McKenzie

“He picks apart on-the-puck defenders in much the same way an elite NFL quarterback breaks down defensive coverages — one read, one component at a time. Mercer deploys a wide array of false signals to trick defenders out of space, to pivot one direction with every intention of quickly transferring his weight in the opposite one.” EliteProspects 2020 NHL Draft Guide

“Mercer followed up an impressive 17-year-old season with a better 18-year-old one, as a top player in the QMJHL and a member of Canada’s U20 team. Mercer is a versatile player. Offensively, he’s an exciting player. He has high-end skill with the soft hands and creativity to beat a lot of defenders. He has the quick-twitch in his hands to be unpredictable and make a lot of great plays in tight areas. He’s a very smart player who moves the puck well inside the zone, finding seams and looking off defenders like a pro. Mercer can also score from a distance if given space, but I think his playmaking is more impressive. He’s a competitive two-way center who can be effective in a lot of situations. He plays in the interior third of the ice a lot and can kill penalties. His main drawbacks are his average feet and lack of NHL caliber explosiveness as well as the minor fact of how he slowed down following a trade to Chicoutimi.

Philippe Boucher, GM of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, on Mercer: ‘He has a lot of skill. He understands the game very well, he can play center or wing, he’s a very well-rounded two-way player.'” – Corey Pronman’s 2020 Draft Board, The Athletic

Mercer started the 2019-20 season on a rebuilding Drummondville Voltigeurs, recording 18 goals and 42 points over 24 games. After the World Juniors, Mercer got dealt to the Chicoutimi Saguenéens as they loaded up for a championship run.

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Given how deep of a team Chicoutimi was, loaded with high-level talent like Edmonton’s 2019 second-round pick Raphael Lavoie, Mercer played more of a depth role on the team than he did in Drummondville. Mercer put up 18 points in 16 games, contributing by the team by killing penalties and taking on tough defensive assignments.

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Mercer says that he models his game after Patrice Bergeron, who’s been the NHL’s best two-way centre for over a decade. While his 60 points across 42 games certainly aren’t eye-popping, Mercer’s complete, 200-foot game is what makes him such an interesting prospect.

He can play both centre and wing, providing a quality defensive game as a pivot while also using high-quality instincts and an aggressive motor to operate in the offensive zone while playing on the wing. Again, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that he was selected for Team Canada’s WJC roster over guys who produced more offensively last season is a ringing endorsement for his reliable game.

Mercer would be an interesting prospect for the Oilers to add because of his versatile projections. He could either become a good two-way winger who fits nicely alongside Connor McDavid or he could end up being a very effective middle-six centre. I also don’t think he’s very far away from stepping into the NHL, which is a plus.

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