Rockets' Merkley turns heads at U17 championship

During the first half of the Western Hockey League season, Kelowna Rockets fans have become used to seeing special plays out of 16-year-old forward Nick Merkley.

The Rockets first round bantam draft pick in 2012 sits seventh in Rockets team scoring with 28 points in 33 games to start the season.

His vision, competitiveness and drive have been on display since the Calgary native made his debut in last year's playoffs as a 15-year-old.

So it comes as no surprise that the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Merkley is showing the same flash as a member of Team Pacific this week at the 2014 World Under-17 Challenge in Cape Breton, New Brunswick.

International Scouting Services has selected three players from each of the six teams competing in the tournament as future players to watch and Merkley wasn't left out of the rankings.

He has been one of Team Pacific's top three players according to the ISS, which had this to say about the dynamic forward: "productive two-way forward…creates scoring opportunities… excellent work ethic…great edge use…anticipates the play…plays in all situations."

In the first three games of the tournament, Merkley scored a goal and two assists for Team Pacific.

Fellow Kelowna Rockets rookie Joe Gatenby is also on Team Pacific, while Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert is the head coach of Team West.

The World Under-17 Challenge continues though Saturday, Jan. 4 when the medal games will be played.

Olsen signs…

Rockets' forward Ryan Olsen has signed a three-year, two-way, entry level contract with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.

In 35 games with the Rockets this season, the right-handed centre has recorded 35 points (17g, 17g) and 36 penalty minutes.

Olsen, 19, a Delta product, has played in 239 career WHL games, between Saskatoon and Kelowna, for 136 career points (71g, 66a) and 228 career penalty minutes.

The 6-foot-2, 194 pound forward was drafted by the Jets in the sixth round, 160th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Rocket Shots…

The Rockets continue a busy January with a home-and-home set this weekend against the Vancouver Giants. The teams will meet Friday at Pacific Coliseum, before hooking up for a rematch Saturday at Prospera Place at 7:05 p.m.…Prior to Thursday night's game in Portland, the Rockets had won 15 consecutive games overall and 15 in a rows on the road.


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