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Merrick Rippon: 2018 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Mid-Draft Big Hitter

Merrick Rippon is a defenseman who is from Ottawa and ended up playing for the Ottawa 67’s last season. He is apparently good at throwing hits, being physical, and playing in his own end of the rink. Learn more about this potential mid-round draft pick with this prospect profile.

Niagara IceDogs v Mississauga Steelheads
Merrick Rippon, here with Mississauga, throws a hit on Kyle Langdon. Rippon is apparently good at checking players.
Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images

Since the New Jersey Devils do not currently have any second or third round picks, they will have to do a lot of work and have some luck to find players from the fourth round and later on. By that point in the draft, pretty much every prospect is going to have some issues in their game that they may or may not be able to sort out. It’s easy to look at a profile for a player like them and discount them even though a more desirable prospect will almost always be going ahead earlier. So it is crucial for a team to identify what the prospect is good at and determine if they have a shot at professional hockey in years. A potential example is today’s subject, defenseman Merrick Rippon,

Who is Merrick Rippon?

Merrick Rippon is a left-handed defenseman who played in the Ontario Hockey League last season. According to his profile at Elite Prospects, he stands at 6’0”, he weighs at 183 pounds, he was born on April 27, 2000, and he is from Ottawa. His profile page at the OHL website has him at 6’1” and 191 pounds. A little taller and beefier; more than a decent size to play defense. That he is from Ottawa is important to note. Rippon played with Ottawa throughout bantam and midget hockey. He was originally drafted by Kitchener in the 2016 OHL Draft, he requested a trade so his rights were traded to Mississauga back in August 2017, and he was part of a deal that had him return home to play with the Ottawa 67’s at the OHL Trade Deadline back in January. As per this article by Tim Baines at the Ottawa Sun, Rippon was happy to return home. Rippon spent all of 2017-18 in the OHL; he did not get selected to play for Canada or in any special game.

Rippon is fairly young as 2017-18 was his rookie season in the OHL. Between the Steelheads and 67’s, Rippon appeared in 68 games, scored four goals, earned 19 assists, took 95 shots, and was given 75 PIM last season according to the OHL website. That’s a point per game rate of 0.34; he was a bit more productive in Ottawa than in Mississauga. Among all defensemen, Rippon finished 49th in total points - and third among rookie defensemen. This not a set of offensive results that jump off the page. They do not suggest he is a particularly offensive player. That said, the point and shot totals may not be indicative of his skillset.

Where is Merrick Rippon Ranked?

Rippon may have been a second round OHL draft pick in 2016, but he was not rated particularly highly in 2017-18. As such, only the ranking lists that go deep could include Rippon. For the sake of avoiding a list that could be mostly “N/A,” I’ll list the people who have him ranked at all.

As you may expect for a mid-draft prospect, Rippon is not rated particularly high. A ranking of 85 among North American skaters would put someone in the fourth to fifth round range. I did raise an eyebrow at seeing him fall by 22 spots. Maybe CSS had a change of a opinion of him. Kournianos’ ranking shows only a little movement, nothing really significant or anything that suggests he’s anything more than a mid-draft player unless a team really likes him. Future Considerations did have Rippon crack their top 100, so that does suggest he could have some fans.

What Others Say About Merrick Rippon

Let’s begin with a biased take on Rippon. The Ottawa 67’s official website has touted the fact that they have seven players on the CSS list - more than any other OHL franchise. They include a not-at-all critical blurb about each player. It’s what the team wants to highlight and it’s something to start with. Here is what the site had to say for Rippon:

Splitting the 2017/2018 season with the Mississauga Steelheads and the Ottawa 67’s, Rippon combined for 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) in 68 games. The solid, versatile defenseman is a very good skater who gets to top speed quickly. Rippon has shown his two-way game throughout the entire season and proved his ability to play under pressure. With a mixture of both offensive and defensive skills, he’s projected to bring his junior success into the next level.

That reads all well and good. Who doesn’t like two-way defensemen who skate well? But let’s get some views from some not-so-biased people who do not work for the 67’s.

As Rippon played in the OHL, Brock Otten at OHL Prospects is a key resource to learn more about the defenseman. Otten has known about Rippon for a while, as far back as to when he was drafted. Let us focus on his draft season, though. Rippon made both lists of Otten’s Top 50 prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft. The mid-season list was posted on December 28, back when Rippon was with the Steelheads. He was ranked 21st with this description:

Rippon is a player who is really starting to grow on me. Not surprisingly, there was an adjustment period for him coming over from the CCHL to start the year. Was a big acquisition for the Steelheads and he came in with high expectations. But he has gotten better and better (even if Mississauga has gotten worse and worse) as the season has gone on. Really love the physicality that he plays with. Very difficult player to beat one on one because of his mobility and his desire to take away space from you. Can still make some questionable decisions with the puck and in his reads near the crease, but I think he’s a potentially solid #4-5 for the next level. I’m sure that he has more offensively than he’s shown so far, and if the Steelheads sell off, he could get a chance in the second half to see more ice time.

This is an encouraging description of a player. It suggests he has improved during the season, which is good. I was surprised to see that he is a physical player since Rippon is not particularly tall or heavy. I suppose he “plays bigger” than his body suggests. Otten’s thought that he may top out as a middle to bottom pairing defenseman beyond junior hockey is probably a big reason why he is not touted any more than he has been. The suggestion he could do more on offense is consistent with his eventual 0.32 point-per-game rate with the Steelheads. Still, that he has a future and as a physical defender is something.

In Otten’s final list, posted on May 23, 2018, Rippon was ranked 22nd. His general opinion of Rippon remains consistent with the notion that he is a physical defenseman. He also compares him to Giovanni Vallati, who is ranked just ahead of Rippon on Otten’s list. As usual, I recommend checking out the whole thing. I’ll highlight what Otten wrote about Rippon here:

Similar kind of player to Vallati, at least in terms of projectability and that’s why they’re back to back on this list. Vallati is the better skater, but Rippon is the more physical player. That’s definitely a major strength of Rippon’s. This guy hits hard. Routinely catches opposing forwards cutting across the blueline and loves finishing his checks when opponents try to get through him off the rush. He’ll angle you off and put you through the boards. His mobility is definitely solid too, at least in terms of lateral and backwards agility. His forward stride may not be as powerful and may limit his offensive potential. But defensively, this guy could be a rock. Really felt like his decision making with the puck improved over the course of the season; turnovers in the defensive end became less and less of an issue. I don’t really think he’ll ever be a huge contributor offensively, but his work in his own end will be very valuable potentially.

Again, this is somebody listed at 6’0” and 183 pounds. If Otten is this impressed by how he throws checks and bodies people, then he must know how to use every bit of his frame. I do appreciate reading from Otten that he can move fairly well except in going forward. That Otten notes that may be a reason why he is not an offensive player is telling. Again, this was written well after the OHL regular season ended. Rippon did not really produce much more offense or take that many more shots after being traded to Ottawa. Between the two, it confirms to me that he’s likely to be a fourth rounder instead of anything higher. Which is probably where a player like Rippon would go in a draft. That said: if his defensive skillset is that good, then that will help him get into pro hockey.

For an additional take on Rippon, Dominic Tiano profiled Rippon back on March 10, 2018 at OHL Writers. This means this was written while he was with the 67’s. The profile goes into Rippon’s game in more detail and even cites what he did prior to joining the OHL. I recommend reading the whole thing, which is a rather positive assessment of the player. This part stuck out to me, though:

Defensively Rippon plays very calm, seemingly never to get rattled or buckle under pressure. His skating allows him to close gaps very quickly. He’s not afraid to throw a hit to separate the player from the puck. He also uses a very active stick to take away lanes and positions his body in the right places.

This is a more nuanced take on his defensive game. While it does mention about “not being afraid to throw a hit,” it does explain that Rippon can do more than just hit an offensive player. This is good to read and it further justifies what Otten has written about his defensive play.

Tiano’s profile does read as being a bit too positive of Rippon, but it is also possible that he was just really impressed by Rippon. I am a little surprised that he did not address the PIMs, but it is what it is. Tiano thinks he has a future in pro hockey too. Again, the lack of offensive results and use of what skills he may or may not have could be a big reason why he’s not rated any higher than he is. I wonder what Tiano would write about Rippon today given that Ottawa’s season has long been over with. Would it be as complimentary? I don’t know.

An Opinion of Sorts

As there is not any video of Rippon in the OHL - there’s plenty from his days with the Ottawa Junior Senators - I’ll go right into an opinion about this prospect based on what I have learned about him. Rippon seems like a perfectly fine mid-draft prospect. While the trend in the NHL is that physical, defensive defensemen are not as valuable or sought after, I do not think this kind of player will go away completely. If such a player is mobile, can handle the puck decently, and can take care of business without too much of a fuss, then they’ll likely be on a roster. Rippon seems like he can be this kind of player. I am curious as how he can be all that physical given that he is not particularly big. Then again, he’s definitely not small and playing the body is more than just towering or out-muscling the opponent.

I will note again that Rippon is fairly young. He just completed his rookie season and turned 18 back in late April. There is time for him to grow a bit. I will agree that he may not be that much of an offensive player. If he has not shown the skills and/or the results now, then it’s questionable whether they’ll be there beyond junior hockey. I also wonder if his skating going forward is going to be an issue. That it is not in going side-to-side or backwards makes me think it may not be. However, I do not know enough about skating mechanics to have a theory as to why or why not. Still, he is not an anchor, he is not just a hit machine, and he is not a plug. He’s somebody who may have a future at the next level, even if it as being roster depth.

Honestly, that may be just fine for a fourth or fifth round selection. I would personally rather have the Devils go for a skater who has raw talent or has skills that have been discounted for various reasons (e.g. the player is too small, plays in a lesser league). But by the middle to late rounds of the draft, finding a potential pro player may be a more fruitful goal than finding a particular type of player and hope he makes it to the next level. Plus, being a defenseman may be a plus to New Jersey given what they have in their system. I do not think the Devils really have a prospect like this in their system, too. Your mileage may vary as to whether that is a role in the pipeline that needs to be filled.

I am confident the Devils are familiar with Rippon. After all, he was on Michael McLeod’s team for half of last season and played on an Ottawa team with several other draft eligible players for the other half. They probably know whether they like what they saw or not already. If they do, they could take him as early as their fourth round pick at 110th overall. Would I prefer somebody else? Probably, based on my preference stated earlier. Would I mind if the Devils take Rippon in the fourth round or beyond? Not at all.

Your Take

That’s my take on Merrick Rippon. Yours may be different. What do you think of Rippon in general? Do you think he could be a pro player with the way he plays? Do you think the kind of player that he is - physical, defensive defenseman - has a future in the NHL in general? Would you mind if he was a mid to late draft selection by the Devils? Where do you think he will go in the draft? If you’ve seen him play for Mississauga or Ottawa in the OHL last season, what did you think of him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Rippon in the comments. Thank you for reading.