Boise, ID (7/5/17) – Steelheads Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Neil Graham announced on Wednesday that the Idaho Steelheads and forward Will Merchant have agreed to terms on ECHL contract for the 2017-18 season. Merchant returns for his second season in Idaho and is the Steelheads' first announced player signing for the 2017-18 campaign.
Merchant, 23, enjoyed a standout rookie season with the Steelheads in 2016-17, netting 21 goals and 48 points in 69 regular season games and adding three assists in four playoff games against the Colorado Eagles. The Eagan, Minnesota native also earned a one-game call-up to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on April 1st.
Merchant was tied for second on the team in goal-scoring and had the fourth-highest point total, behind only Anthony Luciani and linemates Rob Linsmayer and Jefferson Dahl.
“I’m excited to be joining this great organization for another season,” said Merchant.
The 6-foot-1 winger was 14th in the rookie scoring race last season, but he was at his most lethal on the power play. Merchant finished the season with a team-leading 12 power play goals, ranked fifth in the ECHL and second among rookies, as well as 23 power play points overall. Merchant was the first Steelheads rookie to lead the team in power play goal-scoring since the 2012-13 season, and his 12 power play goals were the most by any Steelhead since Mark Derlago in 2010-11.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Will back for another season. He was one of our top forwards and one of our most consistent players last season,” said Graham. “He brings speed, a good shot, and excellent hockey sense to the rink every night.”
Merchant scored his first professional goal in his fifth pro game, tallying against the Reading Royals at CenturyLink Arena on October 26th. Merchant would go on to post two multi-goal games and 13 multi-point performances in his rookie campaign.
Prior to turning pro, Merchant played four seasons of Division I college hockey at the University of Maine, serving as assistant captain and playing 136 games from 2012 to 2016. He recorded 22 goals and 39 points.