Freshman Jon Merrill (NJ) has enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign thus far. He currently leads all Michigan defensemen in scoring with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) through 40 games thus far. Hockey’s Future caught up with Merrill after practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.
Hockey’s Future: What have been some of the highlights on the season thus far for you personally and what are some of the things that you’ve learned since the start of the season?
Jon Merrill: I think one of the highs is just being here at the Frozen Four since that was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. As for what I’ve learned, I think it’s just working hard and getting better every day.
HF: Let’s go back to last summer’s NHL Draft for a moment. Was the wait to hear your name called difficult for you?
JM: No, not really. Anytime you can get drafted, it’s such a great honor. No matter where you go, it’s something special. Whenever and wherever I went I didn’t care, I was just happy to be there.
HF: What was like it when you found out that you had been drafted by New Jersey?
JM: It was obviously pretty exciting. I think it was a good step in the right direction for me, but I also realize that the draft just means that a team holds your NHL rights too. It’s what you do after the draft that it’s important.
HF: Well, you also have two Michigan teammates that could potentially be your future teammates in New Jersey as well.
JM: Yeah, it’s cool, but we don’t really talk about it because we’re all more focused on what is happening right now. But it is in the back of my mind and I think it would be really cool to be able to play with those guys (David Wohlberg and Brandon Burlon) at the next level.
HF: I know that you played with Team USA at the World Juniors. What have you been able to bring back to Michigan from that experience?
JM: I think just the experience of playing in big games in front of big crowds and in a hostile environment. I think the more games you play, the more you get used to it and thrive on.
HF: What is like playing for Coach Berenson and what are some of the things that he has taught you that have made you a better player?
JM: Guys have a lot of respect for him because of who he is. Every time he speaks, everyone listens. He just demands a lot from his players and they give it to him. I think what Coach Berenson teaches us is that if you work hard and are an honest player then good things will happen.
HF: A lot of people look at you as simply an offensive defenseman, but you seem to do a very good job of taking care of your own zone as well. Has that been something that has come naturally for you?
JM: I think so because everything starts in your end and that’s where I take the most pride. If the offense comes along with that, then it’s all the better.
HF: Did you attend the Devils Prospect camp over the summer?
HF: What was the experience like for you and what were you able to bring back to Michigan from the experience?
JM: I think it was really laid back. It was sort of like a one-on-one developmental situation. Guys like Scott Stevens and Larry Robinson were there, so you couldn’t beat that. I think it was really something special. I also had the chance to see how hard you have to work to get to that level too. You get to see just where you’re at and how much further you have to go in your development to get to that level.
HF: Have they been keeping tabs on your development at Michigan?
JM: I don’t know because I haven’t really talked to them that much this year.
HF: Are you planning to attend their camp this summer?
JM: I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.