MERSCH'S LEADERSHIP BEING FELT AT AMERKS TRAINING CAMPOct 6, 2021
By Suzie Cool
At this point in forward Michael Mersch’s career, being a leader comes as second nature.
We’ve got to remember that the eighth-year pro has appeared in 405 career AHL games between four different squads while totaling 264 points, split nearly evenly between 134 goals and 130 assists. Mersch has also appeared in 44 Calder Cup Playoff games, registering 35 points, with 16 of those points coming from goals.
Mersch is a four-time 20-goal scorer in the AHL who won a Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs back in 2015, and he’s even seen some time in the NHL having skated in 17 contests with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2015-16 season, tallying a goal and a pair of assists.
So, it’s safe to say he’s been around the block a time or two in his career and he’s probably a solid contender to be the Amerks mainstay leader heading into the 2021-22 campaign. If that’s the case, Mersch is more than ready to step into this kind of role considering all it’ll take is for him to continue being the same player and person he’s always been.
“Just be the same person that I am. I know it sounds cliché,” said Mersch following Tuesday’s camp-opening practice at The Blue Cross Arena. “I try to give these guys good direction and lead by example on the ice. If things need to be said or taken care of around the locker room, I’ll do that too, but just be myself.”
WATCH: MICHAEL MERSCH FOLLOWING TUESDAY'S PRACTICE
We saw Mersch come to the Flower City last season, after not appearing in a game for almost an entire year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and hitting the free agency market.
Mersch was signed to a professional tryout with Rochester on the very day of the shortened 2020-21 season on Feb. 5. Then, following a brief but mandatory quarantine period, the veteran forward got one practice before making his Amerks debut the very next day on Feb. 10 against the Syracuse Crunch.
The 28-year-old went on to appear in all but one game with Rochester, finishing second on the team with 19 points and third with eight goals in 28 games played. After the relationship that Mersch developed with Amerks head coach Seth Appert, it was no surprise that the veteran inked a two-year deal during the offseason and will certainly be the frontrunner to serve as team captain following the departure of former Amerks captain Steven Fogarty.
When asked how Mersch helps establish the identity of the team Appert commented, “Mike Mersch is such a competitor. He’s a great example for our young prospects. Every rep for him in practice he treats like it’s a game, he treats like it’s a Stanley Cup Playoff. The young guys just naturally see that and learn from those things.”
Prior to coming to Rochester to kick off training camp this week, Mersch spent time at Buffalo Sabres training camp, helping set the standard of what it takes to make the NHL. Appert couldn’t help but mention how the scouts and management at the highest level even acknowledged the leadership that Mersch exuded in all aspects of his game.
“It was funny, the NHL guys, the scouts, the management team at NHL camp they said those things. They’re like, ‘I can see why you wanted to re-sign him so badly,’ because, even at that level, he’s such a great example of how to do things the right way.”
Heading into a new season with a new contract is refreshing for both Mersch and Appert, knowing that they can lean on one another to get the same message across from top to bottom of the roster. The pair gets along in a way that they’re able to communicate and think the same things.
Mersch even laughed when asked how they got to this point of comradery in the first place.
“Sometimes you get along with people really well and you’re able to communicate and think the same things, then other times it works the other way.”
Mersch then went on to add, “Who he is as a person, his approach, and the way he communicates – whether it’s me or somebody else on the team – it just makes a big difference. He’s able to get his point across and make sure that we’re all on the same page and going in the right direction.”
No matter what this season brings, Appert is confident in the fact that he’s got the right leader in place to set the best example for up and coming prospects that are looking to make it to the NHL when it comes to Mersch.
“He does things to bring comradery to the group, both in the locker room and outside the locker room. He’s a guy that looks out for the young guys, his pre-practice routine is longer than most people’s workouts and all of those things are things we’re trying to sell to our young prospects about what it’s going to take to become a National Hockey League player.”