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Former First-Round Pick Leaves North America to Continue Career

Published August 18, 2023 at 1:48 PM
BY TJ TUCKER

A former highly-touted NHL prospect is leaving North America to continue his hockey career. Ryan Merkley has signed on with the KHL's only team based in China, Kunlun Red Star.


Merkley was the first round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2018, 21st overall. He was expected to go higher at one point, but there was plenty of talk about a negative attitude and issues getting along with teammates in the locker room, which led to him dropping down the order.

The 23-year-old defenceman has spent far more time in the AHL than the NHL since being drafted by the Sharks. Merkley requested a trade in January of this year, and got his wish when he was sent to Colorado along with teammate Matt Nieto, in exchange for Martin Kaut and Jacob MacDonald. He spent the rest of the 2022-23 season with the Colorado Eagles of the AHL. Between the two farm teams, Merkley played 58 games in 2022-23, scoring two goals and 20 assists.


Kunlun Red Star is consistently among the worst teams in the KHL. It's record last season was 21-40-3.

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Former First-Round Pick Leaves North America to Continue Career

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