2010-11: Elvis Merzlikins played 28 games for Lugano in Switzerland’s Elite Novizen in his second year with the club’s U17 team and played for Latvia at the U18 and U17 levels. Lugano finished sixth and advanced to the playoff quarterfinals. Merzlikins played all five playoff games. Merzins had a 2.95 goals against and .885 save percentage in three games for Latvia’s U17 team at the 2010 Europe Youth Olympic Festival. He had the top goals against (0.50) and top save percentage (.978), appearing in two games, for Latvia’s gold medal U18 team at the 2011 Division 1A World Junior Championship.
2011-12: Merzlikins was the backup goalie for Lugano’s U20 team in Switzerland’s Elite Junior A league and played for Latvia in the 2013 U20 and U18 World Junior Championship tournaments. He was 1-3-2 and had a 3.52 goals against in eight regular season games and was 0-1in three playoff contests for Lugano with a 5.07 goals against. Merzlikins started one game for Latvia’s U20 team as the third goalie behind Lightning prospect Kristers Gudlevskis, stopping 34 of 50 shots in the team’s 14-0 loss to Russia. In four games at the U18 tournament he was 1-1 with a 4.88 goals against and .885 save percentage. Latvia finished ninth of 10 teams in the tournament.
2012-13: Merzlikins was the top goalie for Lugano’s U20 team and played for Latvia’s U20 team in the 2013 World Junior Championship. He was 17-11-1 with two shutouts and had a 2.76 goals against in 30 regular season games as Lugano finished fifth in the regular season. Merzlikins was 1-2-1 and had a 3.84 goals against in four playoff games. Merzlikins struggled at the WJC, going 0-3 with a 5.85 goals against and .860 save percentage as Ivan Punnenovs eventually assumed the starter’s role. Latvia was relegated to Division 1 after finishing last in the tournament.
2013-14: Merzlikins played for Lugano in Switzerland’s National A league — sharing the goaltending duties with one-time Hurricanes’ prospect Daniel Manzato — and was one of the top goalies in the Swiss Elite junior league. He and Ivan Punnenovs split the goaltending for Latvia’s U20 team at the 2014 Division 1A World Junior Championship. Merzlikins was 12-10 with one shutout and had a 2.13 goals against and .925 save percentage in 22 National A games. Lugano finished fifth in the regular season. Merzlikins did not see any action in the playoffs as Manzato and veteran Michael Fluckiger split the goaltending. Merzlikins had a 2.07 goals against in 12 regular season games for the Lugano U20 team and in seven playoff contests had a 1.29 save percentage. Playing for Latvia, which finished second to Denmark at the D1A WJC, he was 1-1 with one shutout and had a 2.36 goals against and .900 save percentage in three games. Merzlikins was ranked sixth amongst international goaltenders in the Central Scouting final rankings and was selected by Columbus in the third round (76th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Talent AnalysisMerzlikins is a big goaltender who takes up a lot of the net. He is an athletic butterfly goalie that is not hesitant to challenge shooters. Like fellow Columbus prospect Joonas Korpisalo, he plays with an aggressiveness to his game that sometimes gets him in trouble. He is not afraid to handle the puck and has decent rebound control.
Merzlikins performed well in his first rookie development camp with the Blue Jackets in July before returning to Switzerland's NLA to play for Lugano in the 2014-15 season. Once again sharing the goaltending duties with veteran Daniel Manzato, he has shown progress with the fourth-place club. A bit of a sleeper when he was taken in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Merzlikins has all the requisite physical and technical tools to be a successful starting goalie one day. With the Columbus organization suddenly stocked with talented netminder prospects, he will face keen competition to reach that level with the Blue Jackets and could end up elsewhere.