After going down in the exhibition game against the University of Windsor, those in attendance probably already knew that the apparent injury to Jon Merrill, junior defenseman for the University of Michigan, wasn’t good. Perhaps they didn’t know just how bad though.
As reported by Tom Gulitti on the Fire & Ice blog, Merrill, a New Jersey Devils prospect and one of the best defensemen in college hockey, is likely to miss the first six weeks of the season.
New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said he spoke with Merrill today and he suffered “a little fracture”, will have to wear a neck brace and is expected to miss six weeks.
“It’s nothing that needs surgery,” Lamoriello said. “It’s just needs time to heal. But I spoke to him today and he’s doing fine.”
Zach Helfand of The Michigan Daily tweeted more details.
Jon Merrill’s injury is to the seventh vertebrate. It is cracked but not displaced and needs to be immobilized to heal.
— Zach Helfand (@zhelfand) October 10, 2012
Sounds fairly scary when you’re talking about cracked vertebrae, and another reminder of the perils of checks from behind. While Lamoriello reported it will be six weeks, Michigan head coach Red Berenson did not put a timetable on the junior’s return, citing he will be out “a while” and that the injury could have been worse according to Michael Spath.
While Michigan has depth on defense, Merrill was expected to play a lot of minutes and losing the first six weeks of the season is bad news for both the player and team. Without much experience among the Wolverine goalies, the D will have to be stout in a season with lofty expectations attached to it.
This is a particularly tough blow to Merrill, who missed the entire first half of the 2011-12 season due to a team-enforced suspension. Though that was of his own doing, by all accounts, Merrill grew from that situation and had regained the trust and respect of his teammates and coaches.
When at his best, Merrill is terrific at both ends of the ice, possessing good offensive instincts and puck-moving ability along with high-end hockey sense that allows him to excel defensively.
The Wolverines open the regular season at home Thursday night against RIT. As much as they’d like to have their star defenseman on the ice, Michigan players and staff can be glad the injury wasn’t worse and Merrill is likely to return at some point this season.