The crease is his sanctuary.
His skill, confidence and trust in his abilities are his greatest allies.
When you’re the last line of defence, there’s no place to hide.
Especially when you’re in the shadow of your brother.
Riley Mercer wouldn’t change that dynamic for the world.
You see there’s a massive difference between growing up in the shadows or following in the footsteps.
Riley Mercer has embraced both.
The highly skilled sixteen year old netminder is currently blazing his own path to the QMJHL.
Most young goaltenders often feel exposed or vulnerable under the spotlight within the crease.
The pressure of their draft year becomes all consuming.
Riley Mercer loves the solitude of the position and all the challenges it entails.
“I found I had a very smooth transition to Major Midget,” confessed Mercer when asked how nerve wracking his draft year was.
“I worked with my goalie coach Marek Benda over the summer with Dawson shooting on me to make sure I would be ready to make the jump to the major midget level.”
Mercer credits last summer’s program for his subsequent success.
“It made me feel calm and ready in the net.”
“I just tried to work on all aspects to increase my game to get to the next level,” Mercer said confidently.
Confidence has never been an issue for Riley Mercer, he epitomizes it.
The extremely gifted athletic backstop is a throw back and a perfect hybrid.
Mercer’s sheer athleticism sets him apart from other netminders in this season’s draft class.
The pride of Bay Robert’s NFLD is currently ranked 43rd on the QMJHL CSR’s final draft list.
What would it mean to be drafted and play in the QMJHL?
“It would mean a lot to be drafted into the QMJHL.”
“Dawson has played in the Q for the last three years and has had a great experience.”
“I would also like to pursue a great career in the QMJHL,” Mercer said.
There’s no question Mercer is certainly well on his way.
In 17 games with Tri-Pen of he NLMMHL, Mercer had outstanding rookie campaign. In 17 games Mercer had a 10-5-2 record, had a 2.34 GAA, with a .930 save percentage.
The young athletic backstop is quick to credit his dad and brother for his introduction to the game and his subsequent success.
“I’ve always just looked up to my dad and brother.”
“I’ve always tried to be the same type of player and person they are,” explained Mercer.
Mercer also looked up to the King.
“When I transitioned to goalie in novice I first took a liking to Henrik Lundqvist and really just tried to be the goalie he was, but now days I try to model my game between a mix of Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury.”
“I try to rely on positioning, tracking and rebound control first, but can also be fast and flashy like Fleury and make big save at big moments.”
Mercer has certainly made a habit of the latter.
The proud Newfoundlander is arguably one of the most naturally gifted and most athletic goaltending prospects that have entered the QMJHL in quite sometime.
Mercer’s skating ability, compete level, battle and sheer will to stop the puck has scouts raving about his full potential.
At 6’0, 185 pounds, Mercer certainly has all the physical attributes it takes to be a solid netminder at the next level.
Sure some scouts would like him to grow a few more inches, but his athleticism, mobility and heart certainly makes up for any perceived concerns about his size.
Like any young prospect with high expectations who grow up in the shadows and between the pipes a less is more and highly technique approach is often looked at as being critical for success.
When it comes to Riley Mercer, the team that selects him have to appreciate the total package.
Where does Mercer see himself fitting in at the next level?
“I see myself fitting in perfect at the next level.”
“I’ve been really working hard to bring my game to the next level and be an impactful goalie for my team.”
“I feel like it will be the same way as it was coming up through the levels of hockey and not having that big of a toll on me.”
“I just try and give my team a chance to win,” confessed Mercer.
At the end of the day that’s what any organization want in a goaltender.
Since the abrupt ending of the season, what have the Mercer brother’s been working on?
“I have been working out with Dawson since the season has ended pushing each other to be better.”
“Personally I’ve been spending a bit more time on my reflex muscles to increase my quickness and speed and have been stretching.”
Mercer is driven to improve during these uncertain times.
“I feel as if all aspects of your game needs to improve to make the jump to the next level.”
“Personally, I’ve been working to improve speed and quickness as the Q game is a lot faster paced game.”
“Dawson has also been shooting on me outside during nice days to make sure my hands and tracking is at the next level.”
When you have one of the top scoring threats in the QMJHL shooting pucks at you on a regular basis it’s hard pressed not to improve.
The eldest Mercer has been t he highs and lows of the game during his NHL Draft year.
Mercer won a Gold Medal at the World Juniors, was traded to a President Cup Championship contender and then had to endure a shoulder injury a few weeks prior to the cancellation of the season.
Dawson Mercer is definitely a NHL first rounder and one of Newfoundland’s next shining NHL stars.
It’s ironic that both of the Mercer boys were confronted with draft year pressure.
The sacrifices their parents have made to get them to point in their careers isn’t lost on them.
“My parents have sacrificed a lot for us to pursue whatever we want to do in life while leading us in the right direction,” Mercer said proudly.
“They would do anything for us if they thought we would enjoy it or make us a better player or person.”
The love and passion for the game runs deeps in the Mercer household, which has undoubtedly fuel their journey’s in the game.
“My earliest recollection of hockey was when I was a player in squirts and got bumped up to novice to play with Dawson’s team.”
“I also enjoying playing pond hockey,” Mercer said.
Frozen feet and numb fingers never deterred Riley Mercer’s passion for the game and position.
As for the next chapter of his career.
“I would be very excited to play in the Q as it’s a great place for development with all teams having goalie coaches to improve aspects of my game.”
“I feel playing in the QMJHL would just open up so many new experiences and accomplishments for me in the future.”
“I just wish my draft could’ve be in person and not virtual,” admitted Mercer.
“I would have been such an unforgettable experience to see how the QMJHL does a live draft in a rink like the NHL.”
The Mercer brother’s unique, but similar path to the next level continues with their competitive fire and healthy rivalry leading the way.
“Dawson and I get very competitive between little and big thing it’s alway who’s bigger, faster, stronger, quicker or better at everything,” explained Mercer.
“Dawson has helped me a lot.”
“I’m always trying to be better than him at stuff.”
“Over this time he’s shooting on me to improve my tracking and even just to see and realize how much work it takes to get to where he is today, is impressive.”
The game of hockey has an unique way of connecting us all especially when it comes to the shared dreams and bond between brothers.
From the shadows to the light. For now it’s Riley Mercer’s time to shine.