|(above) Dakota Mermis recorded two assists on Friday night|
From: London Free Press
by Steve Green
Dakota Mermis readily admits the last few days have been a whirlwind.
Travelling from Denver to St. Louis to London, meeting his new teammates with the London Knights, getting settled in and skating a couple of times at the Budweiser Gardens. Oh, and playing in his first Ontario Hockey League game Friday night on the eve of his 19th birthday.
He started the game and ended up with a pair of assists as the Knights whipped the Saginaw Spirit 8-2.
“It was great,” he said. “When you have the talent we have in this room, it makes my job a lot easier. All I have to do is get the puck up to the forwards and let them score.”
His play belied the emotions he was feeling as the game approached.
“A little bit of nerves, but mostly excitement just to be here,” the native of Alton, Ill., just north of St. Louis, said when asked what was going through his gut and his head before the game.
Mermis has played before crowds as large as Friday night’s while he was at the University of Denver and with Green Bay of the USHL. However, he’s still getting acclimatized to life as a Knight.
“I’ve heard a lot about this league and this team, especially,” said the Knights’ 12th-round draft pick in 2010, adding he felt the OHL was the best vehicle in which to improve his skills. “I like to get up into the play, but I know it all starts with defense. You’ve got to take care of your own end first.
“Obviously I don’t know the system that well yet so for now, I’m mostly just going to play my game.”
And that’s exactly what the coaching staff is expecting, said assistant coach Jeff Paul, who’s in charge of the blue-line corps.
“Is it his first game? Yes. But is he the prototypical young player? No. There’s a lot expected of him.”
With captain Scott Harrington and fellow rearguard Olli Maatta at the world juniors, the Knights have received yeoman work from several others who helped shore things up at the back — players such as Kyle Platzer, Paxton Leroux and Tyler Ferry.
But when Harrington and Maatta return, the Knights could have as many as eight defencemen on the roster. That will mean competition for ice time.