The Montreal Canadiens have the 16th overall pick in the first round of the NHL entry draft, which will be held Oct. 6-7. This is the last of five profiles of players who could be on the Canadiens’ radar.
Team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Position: Centre/Right wing
Height/weight: 6-foot, 179 pounds
Central Scouting Bureau: 10th among North American skaters.
Head coach Claude Julien is fond of saying if you can play centre, you can also play on the wing and that’s one of the reasons why the Canadiens could be interested in Dawson Mercer.
The native of Carbonear, N.L., played centre this past season, but he put up impressive numbers as a right winger during his first two junior seasons with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Canadiens are well-stocked in the middle with youngsters Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling, but they could use some help on the right wide.
Mercer got off to a hot start in his draft year with 18 goals and 42 points in 26 games with Drummondville and that earned him a spot on Team Canada for the world junior tournament where he played a supporting role as one of the younger players on a gold medal team. He also scored two goals and added an assist in two games against Russia in the CIBC Canada/Russia Series.
He was traded to Chicoutimi as the Saguenéens loaded up for a Memorial Cup run that was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. His production dipped and, while he still managed better than a point a game, his Central Scouting ranking also dipped from sixth to 10th.
Mercer is regarded as a compete player with a high hockey IQ. He’s able to read plays in the offensive end and doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck. He has an accurate wrist shot and slap shot, and his quick release is an asset in tight situations. He’s not afraid to go to the net where his hand-eye coordination results in deflections.
Defensively, he’s strong on the forecheck and he’s willing to help his defencemen down low. Mercer has shown a willingness to play a physical game along the boards and this is one area of his game that will improve as he grows stronger. He moves the puck quickly out of the defensive zone and his ability to jump into passing lanes makes him an excellent penalty killer.
Mercer needs to work on faceoffs although that’s less of a concern if he’s on the wing. Scouts are divided on his skating ability. One report described his style as wonky, while others note that he is an agile skater with good stability. They all agree that he isn’t among the fastest skaters in the draft.