Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League in association with the Guelph Storm Hockey Club today announced that 15-year-old defenceman Ryan Merkley of the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Toronto Jr. Canadiens will be the first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.
The announcement was made at a news conference held this morning in Guelph where Merkley was introduced to local media.
“The opportunity to have the first selection in the OHL Priority Selection is both an honour and a huge responsibility,” Storm GM Mike Kelly said. “Our scouting staff has probably watched more than a 1,000 games throughout Ontario and the United States this year. The number of elite players available for this year’s Priority Selection was astonishing. It is clear the game of hockey is indeed in very good hands, with so many budding stars on the horizon. While the process of determining our selection was thorough and labour intensive, there was one player who stood out amongst all the others. We are very proud and excited to select Ryan Merkley with the first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. Ryan is a very elite defenseman, who, above all, cares about winning. His high end skill, vision, creativity and hockey IQ, separated him from 3 or 4 other very special players. We are confident that Ryan will be a cornerstone to a future championship calibre team. We look forward to working with Ryan and his family, as he achieves his hockey and academic goals”.
Merkley was named GTHL Player of the Year after leading the Jr. Canadiens in scoring with 44 points including seven goals and 37 assists in 33 regular season games. As team captain, the 5’10, 160lb, Mississauga, ON, native produced more than a point-per-game and represented Canada at the Youth Olympic Games earning a silver medal. Born August 14, 2000, Merkley will be eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.
“I am extremely excited and honoured to be chosen first overall in this year’s OHL Priority Selection,” Merkley said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I want to thank the Guelph Storm ownership, management team and scouting staff for showing their confidence in me. I cannot wait to meet my new teammates and begin working towards building a championship team here in Guelph.”
Merkley is the 2016 recipient of the Jack Ferguson Award presented annually to the player selected first overall in the OHL Priority Selection. The “Fergie” recognizes the dedication and contributions made by Jack Ferguson during his 25 year association with the OHL, first as a scout with the Ottawa 67’s and followed by his appointment as head of the OHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in 1981 as its Director of Central Scouting. Merkley is the second member of the Storm to receive the award following Jeff O’Neill in 1992. O’Neill’s number 92 was honoured by the Storm in November as part of the club’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The past five OHL recipients include David Levin, Jakob Chychrun, Travis Konecny, and current NHL stars Connor McDavid, and Aaron Ekblad.
“Ryan is a dominant player that has the ability to take over a game whenever he wants to,” said OHL Central Scouting Director Darrell Woodley. “His skill level and creativity with the puck are second to none. He has the ability to thread a pass that not many others could. Ryan is a great skater and has made many forwards miss on the forecheck leaving them looking silly. He is dangerous on the rush as his one-on-one skills are top notch. He is always on the other team’s radar and he plays on the edge.”
Merkley will be a feature guest on the live 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft Show beginning at 9:00 am on Saturday April 9, 2016. The draft show along with live results feed will be available at www.ontariohockeyleague.com. For the ninth straight year, media and fans can watch the first three rounds live online with host Terry Doyle who will be joined on set by Darrell Woodley and Tim Cherry of OHL Central Scouting to provide analysis, interviews, and video footage of the next wave of OHL stars.
Former winners of the Jack Ferguson Award Include:
1981 Dan Quinn, Belleville Bulls
1982 Kirk Muller, Guelph Platers
1983 Trevor Stienburg, Guelph Platers
1984 Dave Moylan, Sudbury Wolves
1985 Bryan Fogarty, Kingston Canadians
1986 Troy Mallette, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
1987 John Uniac, Sudbury Wolves
1988 Drake Berehowsky, Kingston Raiders
1989 Eric Lindros, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
1990 Pat Peake, Detroit Ambassadors
1991 Todd Harvey, Detroit Ambassadors
1992 Jeff O’Neill, Guelph Storm
1993 Alyn McCauley, Ottawa 67’s
1994 Jeff Brown, Sarnia Sting
1995 Daniel Tkaczuk, Barrie Colts
1996 Rico Fata, London Knights
1997 Charlie Stephens, Toronto St. Michael’s Majors
1998 Jay Harrison, Brampton Battalion
1999 Jason Spezza, Mississauga IceDogs
2000 Patrick Jarrett, Mississauga IceDogs
2001 Patrick O’Sullivan,Mississauga IceDogs
2002 Robbie Schremp, Mississauga IceDogs
2003 Patrick McNeill, Saginaw Spirit
2004 John Hughes, Belleville Bulls
2005 John Tavares, Oshawa Generals
2006 Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting
2007 Ryan O’Reilly, Erie Otters
2008 John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
2009 Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
2010 Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia Sting
2011 Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts
2012 Connor McDavid, Erie Otters
2013 Travis Konecny, Ottawa 67’s
2014 Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting
2015 David Levin, Sudbury Wolves
2016 Ryan Merkley, Guelph Storm