The 1st Ohio Battery summer prospect series continues with our No. 3 best prospect in the Blue Jackets system, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.
Reason For Ranking
It feels like we've been talking about Merzlikins for a while. He was drafted as a re-entry player all the way back in 2014.
Since then, Merzlikins has continued to improve and has become one of the top goalies outside of the NHL. He recently won the Jacques Plante Trophy as goaltender of the year in the NLA. He has also impressed in international play, keeping Team Latvia competitive in the World Championships with his strong play. In six games, he posted a .940 save percentage, which ranked fourth in the tournament.
Merzlikins has shown he can handle pro-level competition, but hasn’t yet wanted to leave the Swiss League. He extended his contract for another season with Lugano, but the hope is that he will come to Columbus after that.
We are all big fans of Merzlikins, as Sam and I each ranked him third while Dan had him second.
At 6-foot-3 and192 lbs., Merzlikins has the size you want in an NHL goalie. He’s very athletic and has quick reflexes. He’s confident in the crease, and always willing to go out and challenge shooters. He has the ability to step up and take over games, as he showed at the Worlds this spring.
Best Case Scenario
Merzlikins has all the tools to be a star goalie in the league. It was only one game, but you look at his performance in the World Championships against Team USA. He made 30 saves, many of which were high-danger scoring chances coming from NHL stars. He stood his ground and kept Latvia in that game. You can see in that highlight pack the amount of times his defensemen weren’t in the right spot or turned the puck over. If you get him playing behind an NHL defense group, he could be even better.
Strengths And Weaknesses
Merzlikins has everything you want in a goalie prospect: size, athleticism and reflexes, which is why he ranks as highly as he does. When he comes over he will be ready to step right in and be a starting goalie in the NHL. The problem, though, is that he hasn’t come over yet, and the question becomes: is he hurting himself playing another season in Switzerland? This upcoming season will be his sixth in the NLA. He has nothing left to prove in that league, and he's also older than most top prospects as he’s already 24. He could be a free agent at 26, so the Jackets will have to sign him or risk losing him for nothing.
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