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Devils prospect Jon Merrill suspended 12 games from U of Michigan

Oct 1, 2011, 9:20 PM EDT

Jon Merrill Getty Images

While the NHL season is set to get under way officially in a few days, the college hockey schedule is roaring to life this weekend. One guy who won’t be participating in that will be New Jersey Devils prospect and University of Michigan standout Jon Merrill.

Merrill has been suspended for 12 games by legendary coach Red Berenson for breaking unspecified team rules. While we see things like this happen in college football and basketball generally having to do with problems with boosters or grades, we don’t know what Merrill’s issues were.

With such a big punishment (college hockey season runs approximately 40 games total), the worry there for the Devils exists because he might be hurting his development. Devils coach Lou Lamoriello has no issues whatsoever with how Michigan is handling things as Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice finds out.

“I support what the coach did and (Merrill) understands and he’s committed to Michigan and we support that 100 percent,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello said he had been in contact with Berenson about the incident, but would not say if he spoke with Merrill.

“We have had communication with the coach and that’s good enough for me,” Lamoriello said.

There is one catch when a college prospect runs into issues in the NCAA as a hockey player: A player can always escape college by jumping to the Canadian Hockey League. In this case, Merrill’s CHL rights belong to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. If Merrill was frustrated by what happened in Michigan and didn’t want to sit out the 12 games, he could tell Michigan to forget it and go play a pro-like schedule with Plymouth. The catch there is that if he jumps to the OHL, he cannot go back to Michigan.

One thing’s for sure, eyes in Michigan will be focused on Merrill to see if he stays in school as the Wolverines have lost their fair share of prospects over the years to the CHL including Stars first round pick in 2010, goalie Jack Campbell. The noble thing for Merrill to do would be to accept the responsibility for whatever it was he did, deal with the suspension, and finish out the year at UM. Nobility, however, sometimes has nothing to do with what’s right for what a player feels for their career and their future.

  1. bcisleman - Oct 1, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Thought Garth had made a big mistake in passing on Merrill for Brock Nelson in 2010. Looks like I was wrong.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Oct 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      No one knows how this suspension will affect Merrill’s career. I think it’s a little premature to be applauding Mr. Snow on a draft choice.

      • bigbear42 - Oct 2, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        It is beyond way too soon to be writing off this guy as a bad pick. This isnt that much different than having an injury that would take him out for the same number of games, except that he wont have the off ice training limitations an injury would involve. Also keep in mind that he was suspended for unspecified team violations, which could be any number of things.

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