BOISE, ID – Forward Will Merchant has signed an ECHL Standard Player Contract (SPC) for the 2021-22 season, moving to the Idaho Steelheads for a fifth season, Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Everett Sheen announced on Wednesday.“With my free time, I’ve spent a lot of time with fans and season ticket holders at work and at the gym where I train,” said Merchant. “Every time I see you they tell me how excited you are about the first game. I think we’re going to do a great job this year, but I think there will be more excitement in Boise to start another year. “
The 27-year-old businessman ran 61 games for the Steelheads in the 2019-20 season shortened by the pandemic and scored 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points with 49 penalty minutes, a plus-nine rating and five power play goals and ranked in the top four in all important scoring categories and especially second in the goals scored and power play goals. The Eagan, Minnesota product has played in all four of its pro seasons in Idaho, with 57 games in the 2018-19 season in Greenville and 159 points (70-89-159) in 270 games with 148 penalty minutes since it debuted during the 2016-17 in Idaho. He has at least 14 goals and 30 points in all four seasons.
Entering the 2021-22 season in historically good company for its career, the dealer sits in the all-time top 10 in three Steelheads ECHL categories. With 60 goals he is fifth all-time, now 17 points behind striker Jefferson Dahl (’14 -’18, ’19 -’20), and his 137 points are eighth all-time, just seven points from striker Scott Burt ( ’03-’07) and 11 points from striker Rob Linsmayer (’12 -’17). The final game of the 2019-20 season brought him to the seventh all-time with 213 games played, now just 17 games behind striker Lance Galbraith (’03 -’05, ’06 -’08). In 213 games with the Steelheads, the 6-foot-1 striker has 137 points (60-77-137). He decided not to play in the 2020/21 season.
“With everything that was going on, I didn’t really feel like going anywhere else and playing. I’ve been a Steelheads player for most of my professional career, and that’s where I wanted to play. I was more willing to stay in the area and find out what I wanted to do. In the end, I knew I wanted to play hockey a little longer, so I took some time off to rejuvenate my body and put my mind back in order to look forward to another season.
“I had a great season two years ago and we had a really good team that helped everyone. This year I’ve slowly developed into a leader, and that’s what I want to bring to this season. I want to get louder off the ice and keep doing the right things on the ice. “
“Will is the longest-tenured steelie on the roster and brings a wealth of experience to our line-up,” said Sheen of Merchant’s return. “We are looking for him to take a big step this year and be a great leader for us.”
Prior to his professional career, Merchant played four seasons at the University of Maine, scoring 22 goals and 17 assists for 39 points in 136 games, including 22 points (13-9-22) in 36 games during his 2015-16 senior campaign during that season served as assistant captain. He was a three-time Hockey East All-Academic Selection and a two-time Maine Scholar Athlete winner.
“Taking a year off made me excited to come back and play hockey,” added Merchant. “That extra time outside of the game and the way it all ended up in a couple of years – I had a lot of hope for this season – I’m really excited to get that start going again for this year.”
Merchant is the second Steelheads player to land an ECHL contract for the 2021-22 season, joining AJ White, who was announced on Monday. Future announcements and signings will be announced over the course of the summer, and you can keep track of who has been added on the team’s Summer Signing Tracker.
The Steelheads are back for the 2021/22 season! Season passes and flex plans are available for purchase ahead of the Home Opener on Friday, October 22nd against the Utah Grizzlies at Idaho Central Arena.
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