2022 Season Preview: Elvis Merzlikins

Elvis Merzlikins, 6-3, 183 pounds

April 13, 1994 (28 years old)

Drafted 3rd round (#176 overall), 2014 NHL Draft

Cap hit: $5.4M through 2027-28

Role: Starting goaltender

Mandatory Credit: Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Of all of the players who were on the roster and have remained through the overhaul of the Columbus Blue Jackets, perhaps nobody has suffered more than Elvis Merzlikins. Joining the team for the 2019-20 season, Elvis split time in net with Joonas Korpisalo, behind a stingy defensive team coached by John Tortorella. But his sophomore season – and his most recent (third) season – have seen a team built to win higher scoring games. As a result, his numbers have declined in each season, leading some to wonder if he can really handle a full-time starting job in the NHL.

Merzlikins landed in Columbus right in the middle of the most exciting stretch in franchise history. It would have been easy to miss his arrival due to the 2019 playoff run; but his infectious personality made him an immediate fan favorite. Though the beginning of his NHL career was not good (he started 0-8), an injury to Korpisalo in December of 2019 opened the door for Elvis – and he broke out in a big way. Earning his first win on December 31, he won 12 of 14 starts with Korpisalo out, a stretch that included 5 shutouts.

Elvis is an athletic goaltender who can make a dazzling save, even when you think he’s out of the play. But, he’s prone to giving up the odd rebound and often relies on his athleticism, maybe even to a fault. He’s a competitive player and universally loved teammate who wears his emotions right on his sleeve. In my opinion, he’s at his very best when the games are emotional and tough … so it’s hard to say that he needs to settle down in goal. Let’s just call him non-traditional.

Three Keys to Success
  1. Stay healthy. This is a trend amongst nearly every key player for the Blue Jackets, and Elvis is no exception. He’s missed time in each of his first three years in the league. He’s at his best when he’s playing every night, so keeping him in the lineup is vital.
  2. Targeted emotion. These seems odd but it’s true – when he’s engaged and competitive, he can be one of the best goalies in the entire world. No ice water flowing through these veins, get out there and battle.
  3. Defense. Honestly, this is probably the only thing that needs to improve to get Elvis back to a higher level. The defense last season was … bad … and the goaltenders in Columbus generally struggled as a result. Getting fewer high danger chances against would be huge.
2022-23 Expectation: Be the guy.

I don’t expect Elvis Merzlikins to compete for a Vezina trophy, at least not this year, behind this team, as constructed. They are still in transitional mode, likely 2-3 years away from truly competing. But, it would be nice to see Elvis take the reins and prove that he can be a starting goalie in the NHL. If he can stay healthy and start 55 games, while keeping his save percentage at or above 91%, then I think it’s a successful year for him. There may be no other player on the roster as important to this team’s success, as Elvis Merzlikins is for the Blue Jackets. If he does dazzle and become one of the top goaltenders in the league, this team could go places.