December 19, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Merrill's Suspension Continues, But He's Playing for Team USA

CHN Staff Report

Off-ice issues continue to keep Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill out of the lineup, it was reported last week by TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Merrill is currently with Team USA preparing for the World Junior championships that start after Christmas, and is expected to make the final roster.

Merrill was suspended for the first 12 games of this season, for an unspecified violation of team rules. After the 12 games had passed, coach Red Berenson allowed him to return to practice, but has still not allowed Merrill to get back in the lineup.

The final Team USA roster will be announced Christmas Day. Merrill, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who was a second-round pick of New Jersey in 2010, was on last year's bronze-medal winning team.

According to McKenzie, "While no one is prepared to publicly specify the nature of the 'violations,' it is common knowledge within the NHL community that Merrill has been dealing with some off-ice issues. And, in fact, one of the violations occurred while he was already under suspension (during the first 12 games) for a prior violation. The secondary violation is apparently the reason he's still not being permitted, for now, to play any games for Michigan."

Merrill decided, through it all, to stay at Michigan, and his family advisor said he's trying to work things out. He has been doing extra skating with Berenson each morning, according to McKenzie.

Merrill was also once suspended for two weeks for an off-ice incident while part of the U.S. National Program, prior to going to Michigan.

"We've been in communication with Red Berenson and the University of Michigan," USA Hockey assistant executive director, hockey operations, Jim Johansson, said in a recent conference call. "Jon's situation at Michigan is that he's being supported by Michigan and his participation with us is being supported by Red and Michigan. That was important for us in Jon's involvement and his continued development as a student-athlete.

"With us, Jon's got a long history in our programs and has performed extremely well for us and carried himself well in everything he's done with us. For him to be involved with us, we, number one, wanted to make sure Michigan was on board with it and they are. Second, can he help our team? We think he can help our hockey team. So that led to his involvment with us. He's been skating and he's in great shape and should be ready to go, if his playing history carries with him, we expect him to be a big part of this team."

Merrill had seven goals and 25 points in 42 games as a freshman for Michigan last season.

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