|(above) Dakota Mermis left DU last weekend for the Ontario Hockey League|
On Tuesday evening the OHL London Knights announced the signing of University of Denver Freshman Dakota Mermis. Clearly this was a move designed to get Dakota's hockey career back on track towards someday achieving a roster spot in the NHL.
Before Dakota ever committed to the University of Denver, he was considered to be one of the best young hockey players in North America. His St. Louis Junior Blues team won the 2007 USA AAA Championship when he was just 12 years-old.
At age 16, he was selected to play for the prestigious US National Development team in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was considered to be one of the top seven defensemen in the USA and his hockey future appeared bright.
Playing for the US National Development team poses issues. If you aren't on the top two forward or defensive pairings are you better off instead playing a leading role on the USHL team? Its a problem at every level of youth sports. As you progress up the ladder, the competition for playing time gets stiffer and to maintain playing time you may have to play a different role than your body or skill set is ideally suited for.
It happened to former DU star Gabe Gauthier; he could score goals in bunches on the top two lines in the AHL, but didn't have the body mass to adapt to playing physical role on a third or fourth line in the NHL.
So the decision was made for Dakota to jump from the USNDP Under-18 Team and play the following season in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers. Former DU coach Derek Lalonde was soon thereafter named the head coach of the Gamblers and if anyone was going to give Dakota a ton of playing time, "Olde DU Derek" could be counted upon.
By all accounts Dakota had a great season in Green Bay. He recorded 5 goals and 22 assists and the Gamblers won the USHL Championship. But compare his stats to NHLer Matt Carle, who blazed a similar career path as Dakota's. Carle recorded 12 goals and 30 assists in his lone season in the USHL for River City.
Dakota's numbers and progress after his season in Green Bay were not sufficient enough for an NHL team draft the 5'11 blueliner. At this point, Dakota had three choices. Play another season in the USHL and put up some big numbers, jump to London in the OHL or attend DU.
He chose to come to Denver and compete for playing time with some of the best young Dmen in D1 hockey. David Makowski [5 goals, 7 assists], Joey LaLeggia [7 goals, 10 assists], Nolan Zajac [3 goals, 9 assists], Scott Mayfield [2 goals, 5 assists], Paul Phillips [0 goals, 5 assists] & Josiah Didier [0 goals, 3 assists]. Dakota's stats [1 goal, 3 assists] obviously put him down the pecking order.
Dakota's numbers and size clearly weren't going to entice an NHL team to draft him this summer, so he made the decision to bolt to the OHL London Knights. He'll get more playing time, more games and power play opportunities in the OHL.
After next season he'll likely begin his career in the ECHL and compete for playing time against players that are better then his former teammates at DU. His odds of making the NHL? Based on current US born blueliners in the NHL under 6 feet tall, a thousand to one.
US Born Players Under 6' who appeared in at least 1 NHL Game last season
[NCAA FRESHMAN SEASON STATS]
John-Michael Liles - MSU [8 goals, 20 assists] 4 years of college
Keith Ballard - MN [10 goals, 13 assists] 3 years of college
Alex Goligoski - MN [5 goals, 15 assists] 3 years of college
Francis Bouillon - CHL
Andy Greene - MIA(OH) [4 goals, 19 assists] 4 years of college
Kevin Shattenkirk - BU [4 goals, 17 assists] 3 years of college
Brett Lebda - ND [7 goals, 19 assists] 4 years of college
Matt Hunwick - MI [1 goal, 14 assists] 4 years of college
Jack Hillen - CC [2 goals, 9 assists] 4 years of college
Nick Leddy - MN [3 goals, 8 assists] 1 year of college
Steven Kampfer - MI [1 goal, 3 assists] 4 years of college
Matt Taormina - Providence [1 goal, 10 assists] 4 years of college
Cade Fairchild - MN [2 goals, 13 assists] 4 years of college
Torey Krug - MSU [3 goals, 18 assists] 3 years of college
Aaron Ness - MN [2 goals, 15 assists] 3 years of college