Today, in our continuing coverage of top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft here at All About the Jersey, we have Canadian winger and all around playmaker Dawson Mercer. Born in Newfoundland and Labrador, he ended up playing his junior hockey in the QMJHL. This is not a common occurrence, you could say; in 2018, Dawson was one of only 12 skaters in the entire league that was from NL. Most, obviously, come from Quebec.
Nonetheless, despite not being from the home province, Dawson has spent the last two seasons just tearing up the league, being one of the best players there for a while now. He was traded midyear this year, moving from Drummondville, where he played for two and a half seasons, over to Chicoutimi, who was second in the league at the time and pushing for a championship. Sadly, Mercer’s season ended even a little before everyone else’s thanks to a wrist injury that kept him out of the team’s final six games of the year. You can bet Chicoutimi is banking on him coming back for another year next year, which honestly is a decent bet.
Mercer is a taller winger, standing 6 foot even, and weighs 179 pounds. He has good size, and will fill out his frame well, which will help him adjust to the pro game as he gets older. He is a surefire first rounder this year, and many expect excellence from him moving forward.
Who is Dawson Mercer?
Mercer has been so successful because he is not just a one trick pony. He is a great distributor when he needs to be, setting up his teammates, but also has the goods to find twine when he sees an opportunity. Since entering the Q back in 2017-18, he has always had somewhat more assists than goals, but for the most part, it has been a fairly even distribution. As a 16 year old his first year in the league, he managed 26 points in 61 games, 11 goals and 15 assists, not a bad first year showing as the youngest player in a league mostly of players a couple years older. In the playoffs that year for Drummondville, he managed 4 points in 10 games, a better showing, and indicative of the growth he was showing.
These last two years, however, you see the transformation as he adjusted to major junior hockey and then just took it over. In 2018-19, as a 17 year old, he was nearly a point per game player, producing 64 points in 68 regular season games, with 30 goals and 34 assists. Again, you can see the fairly even distribution there. He did manage exactly a point per game that year in the playoffs, 16 points in 16 playoff games, but was more uneven in his point distribution, with only 5 goals to 11 assists. Definitely played the part of the playmaker that year, getting Drummondville to the semifinals before falling to Halifax in 6 games.
This past year, he just took his game to the next level, producing 42 points in 26 games for Drummondville before the trade to Chicoutimi, where his point percentage fell a little bit to 18 points in 16 games, but considering he still ended at over 1 point per game, I don’t think many were complaining. You again see Dawson this year moving a little more towards the playmaking side of his game instead of the shooting side, as of his 42 points with Drummondville, 24 were assists, and of his 18 with Chicoutimi, 12 were assists.
He also played for Team Canada in the World Juniors this year, but in 7 international games, did not manage to produce a point. That is most likely not too helpful for his draft considerations, but given his excellent play in major junior, it won’t harm him much.
Where is Mercer Ranked?
In their midterm rankings from a couple months ago, Central Scouting has Mercer as the #6 North American skater in this draft. However, if you’re interested, he is ranked 2nd among players from the Q, behind only consensus #1 Alexis Lafreniere.
-Future Considerations has him ranked as the #12 ranked skater in this draft, a solid mid-round ranking, and one of the higher ones you will see for Dawson, although the spread on his rankings is not too big as compared to some others, especially the lower you go in the rankings.
-The Draft Analyst, in his March rankings, has Dawson at perhaps the lowest ranking you’ll see for him. Despite moving him up 12 spots from a previous ranking, Steve has him ranked #24 overall, a later first rounder. This is a little off from the consensus.
-The Hockey Writers, in their February rankings, has Mercer at #12 overall, in line with FC, even if they vary on other selections around that part of the round.
-Draft Site, which has a mock draft that will continually be updated until the draft, currently has Calgary taking the winger with the 16th pick overall (they have New Jersey picking 17th right after thanks to the Blake Coleman trade).
-ISS, in their top 31 for March, has Dawson 12th overall, the clear mode of these rankings.
-Lastly, McKeen’s has Mercer at #15. So really, besides The Draft Analyst, you’re looking mid-first round, perhaps the 12-16 range on Dawson by most pundits.
What Others Have Said About Mercer
The Hockey Writers had their profile up on Mercer only a couple of weeks ago. They like to give neat grades to each player for certain areas. For risk, they give Mercer a 2 out of 5, which is fairly low. On the reverse, they give him a 3.5 out of 5 for reward, which is significantly higher than his risk, perhaps something to be expected of a mid-first rounder. They also give him a 7 out of 10 for both offense and defense, showcasing how his game is good overall and not just in any one aspect. They also quote from other pundits, so check out the link if you want to read those.
The writer, Andrew Forbes, has good things to say about Dawson, but also some question marks. Getting to the latter first, Forbes writes that “his playmaking and decision making on the ice has continued to be inconsistent and questionable at times this season.” That has led to some to drop him down on their boards, although given his mid-first ranking, it has not been a major drop for many. As Forbes writes, “the fact that Mercer is still a first-round potential talent is thanks, in large part, to the high ceiling.” Overall, when discussing projections, he writes:
“He may not come as a top 10 pick, but Mercer’s ability to produce puts him in a position to eventually take on a top six role. There is room to grow - both in defensive zone play and decision making - but that won’t keep him from being an important role player at some point in the near future.”
The Draft Analyst, the one with the lower ranking on Dawson, recently put up a scouting report on him. Despite the lower ranking, Steve Kournianos is still high on praise for the winger. As he starts his profile: “an 18-year old who can look like a flashy 10-year veteran in one instance and a smothering checker checker in the next ? Sign me up.” He calls Mercer’s work this year “impeccable.” Some interesting quotables: “His positioning and anticipation lead to a lot of blocked clearing attempts” … “an accurate passer and can make tape-to-tape passes in one motion” … “He owns soft hands” … “does not look for the easy way out and will gladly defer to his elite shot if a passing lane is clogged” … “as dangerous a shooter as he is a playmaker” … “owns a quick first step” … “tough to knock off the puck” … “shifty and elusive in tight spaces” … “The defensive component to Mercer’s game is quite effective.”
Over at Draft Site, writer Bill Placzek has a short blurb up about Mercer. He has praise similar to Steve, calling Dawson a “natural sniper whose stick is always close to the ice surface, displaying strong offensive zone instincts.” Furthermore, he also notes that he often generates offense “by scoring and acting as a playmaker.” Again, another analyst here noting he is good in both aspects. He also notes that Mercer “plays in all situations and excels on both penalty kill and power play.” Having strong defenders on offense has always been something coveted by New Jersey, and Dawson displays that. Finally, Bill writes that “his strong three zone hockey IQ fuels his quest to be the best.”
A Little Video
Here is a good highlight package of Mercer:
Some highlights from this season:
If you guys have been following our draft profiles for the last couple of weeks now here at AATJ, you will realize that someone like Dawson Mercer, while a fantastic prospect and one with top 6 potential (something every team is looking for with a first round pick), is not someone the New Jersey Devils will be looking to take with their own pick in the first round. The Devils will be picking well into the top 10, probably no worse than 8 or so, and that would be the worst case. Mercer is not going that high, especially when you see some of the other guys we have profiled.
However, the Devils do not just own their own first round pick in this year’s draft, as you know. They also own Arizona’s pick unless they happen to miss the playoffs and win the lottery, and who knows what’s happening with all of that now, so that is up in the air, but I would still say a good chance the Devils get that pick this year. And they also have Vancouver’s first round pick, courtesy of Tampa thanks to the Blake Coleman deal. Predicting where NJ will get to pick with these picks is really tough to determine since we do not even know what will happen with the rest of this season, but if you go back to Bill Placzek’s mock draft on Draft Site, which I linked to above, he has the Devils getting pick #10 thanks to the Taylor Hall deal, and pick #17 thanks to the Coleman deal. As far as any guessing is concerned with pick order, that is as good a guess as any.
If we go on that, there obviously becomes much better of a chance the Devils could end up looking strongly at a player like Dawson Mercer, who many think to be a mid-first rounder. In my personal opinion, I think it is unlikely they would look to take him at 10, as that is still slightly too early. There are still many others out there at that point, potentially players like Jake Sanderson (who is currently mocked to NJ at 10 at Draft Site, although I might personally prefer Dawson), or even perhaps Anton Lundell, or if they’re lucky, someone like Cole Perfetti who falls a couple of slots (I would probably prefer either of them over Dawson). Although, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Dawson is a bad pick at #10. Any team could do a lot worse. I just don’t think any team pulls the trigger on him that early.
However, if Dawson falls a little beyond that pick #12 that many have him currently ranked at, he could be someone the Devils target if they end up with that #17 pick, or anything near it (perhaps #s 14-17). They could also look at him if that pick from Arizona ends up being in the #12-14 range instead of #10. And if either of those scenarios play out, and they are calling Dawson’s name for New Jersey, it would be a pick I would absolutely be behind. If you can get someone in the mid-first who has legitimate top 6 talent on offense, you cannot be upset with that pick. He has good size, good hockey IQ, plays a 200-foot game, in all scenarios, and is happy both distributing and shooting. That is as much of an all-around forward as you are going to find, and given his drive to always up his game, you have to feel decently confident that he has a good chance to pan out. He is not someone who will be ready for the 2020-21 season, and will most likely go back to Chicoutimi for another season. He might even need a little time in the AHL after that to get used to the pro game. But he is someone who could push for NHL playing time in 2021-22 if all goes right, and definitely should be out there the following year regardless.
In a draft loaded at the top end, Dawson is another player you have to feel good about, and given that NJ has potentially 3 picks in the top 20 and needs offensive talent desperately, the odds are fairly decent he ends up in Newark. If that occurs, you definitely won’t hear me complaining.
Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Dawson Mercer? Do you think he is someone the Devils should be targeting with one of their other first round picks this year, the ones from Arizona and Tampa? What do you think is the earliest they should begin looking at him on the draft board, given all of the other talent at the top of this year’s draft board? Is #10 too early? #12? Do you think he has a strong chance to become a top 6 mainstay in the NHL? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!