Jon Merrill signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild on July 29, 2021. Endearing himself to fans with his facial hair, missing tooth, and wild mullet, Merrill quickly established himself as a valuable defensive depth piece for the Wild. Merrill signed a three-year contract extension in January 2022.
Merrill spent last season playing on the third pairing with a rotating partner. He usually played alongside Calen Addison or Alex Goligoski. Playing in 73 games, he ended the season with 12 points (2 goals and ten assists). Merrill was a dependable depth player over the season and also slotted in for two playoff games. Most of the games he missed were due to off-season surgery that he needed extra time to recover from.
He’s a defensive defenseman. Merrill’s big size and great positioning skills mean that he blocks a lot of shots around the net. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman, which works well because he’s normally paired with a more offensive partner. While Alex Goligoski isn’t as much of an offensive threat as he has been in the past, Merill’s other partner, Calen Addison, was noted for racking up points when he played consistently last season.
Despite his large size, Merrill isn’t overly physical. He also doesn’t have the best puck-handling skills. This lack of a specific “role” means that it’s hard to determine how to use him. That’s why he plays on the third pairing. Merill also tends to go unnoticed. That isn’t necessarily a weakness because of his defense-first style of play, but it does mean that many fans might underappreciate the things that he does well.
The direction of Merill’s next season will depend partially on who he plays most of his games next to. Playing with Goligoski will be an effective defensive pair, but probably won’t put up many points. Playing with Addison might provide a more easily observed role on the team because of the points Addison scores.
(As of writing this article, Addison still hasn’t signed a new contract with the Wild. He will have to sign something soon, which is spoken about at length in this article.)