New Jersey Devils first-round pick Dawson Mercer of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens sat down with Junior Hockey Magazine to reflect on winning silver at the 2021 World Juniors, playing in the QMJHL’s protected environment event, and how he continues to work toward his dream of playing in the NHL:
Junior Hockey Magazine: First and foremost, where are you and how are you doing?
Dawson Mercer: I’m back in Chicoutimi now. We just finished up practice for today and we have school coming up in the afternoon. I had my two-week quarantine to do when I got back from the World Juniors but I had a couple of days to practice before our two games this weekend. It was a pretty small bubble, just a weekend kind of thing. But we have a nine-day bubble coming up now with six games.
JHM: Can you explain the unique format in how you are playing your games?
DM: It’s really unique. A couple days before you go into the bubble, you will get tested, so we got tested yesterday to make sure that we are good to go. We don’t see the other people. We stick to our little bubble, our team, inside the bubble. We will get tested inside the bubble as well, every couple of days. It’s pretty much our normal schedule when we come to the rink for practice and then we will have school after our workouts in the morning. We are living in the hotel fairly often but we are just happy to play. We will have a quick stand of a couple games, then a day off, and then a couple more games in the bubble. We will have six games in nine days and it just feels good to be back on the ice practicing with the guys and playing games in the coming days. It’s what we love to do so we are excited for it.
JHM: What’s it like for you to be playing in this situation where you are going from the hotel room to the rink and in a bubble where you are quarantined and isolated?
DM: It’s been really different for us. I have been doing a lot of quarantining in travelling for the World Juniors, coming back, and right now it is a bit weird because we are hosting one of the bubbles here in Chicoutimi. We are pretty much on a road trip, staying at a hotel in our own city and playing at our own rink. So that is a bit weird and no fans is obviously different, but when the puck drops you are pretty focused. We are really excited to be pushing for the playoffs, but it’s weird doing a road trip in your own city, playing in a bubble, and going to the rink.
JHM: Have you begun to digest what happened at the World Juniors and after the long process to get there?
DM: When you look back at it, and when I got back with my own team, I realized I was gone for a long time, going to the tryouts, making the team, playing in the World Juniors, it was a long spell of 50-something days. It was all worth it though. It is an honour to represent your country, especially on home soil in playing in Edmonton. It was a special group of guys that we had. Obviously it was not the outcome we wanted but when you look back and reflect on it, you realize it was an opportunity of a lifetime that we are going to be grateful for forever. Looking back at winning gold last year and silver this year, and seeing both sides of it, it is a pretty special tournament to be a part of it and I was happy that the IIHF, Hockey Canada, and all the countries around the world made it happen for us junior players to make our dreams come true, so it is pretty special for sure.
JHM: You then just signed your first contract with the New Jersey Devils. Does it make your head spin when you think of all the stuff that has happened in your life over the last 18 months?
DM: This year has been weird but a lot of good things have come from it. A lot of things that I have been working toward in my career since I was a kid and moving up is finally starting to happen and fall into place from getting drafted and then signing and the World Juniors. It’s exciting to continue on in my journey and I just can’t wait to get started in New Jersey and finish my year here in the QMJHL. It’s exciting. We are going to try to win this year and it is going to be a fun ride to end my junior career before I head off to New Jersey in the future.
JHM: Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said you can play any position, any line, any side of the ice, and are a very strong penalty killer. For you, what is it like to hear the GM speak so glowingly about you?
DM: It’s unbelievable to hear. I was so pumped to get drafted by New Jersey. When the team drafts you, they like you, but it is great to hear those words. Those are the things I like to do, all of the little things, play in all situations. I will make my mark in New Jersey by playing whatever role they put me in and I am going to keep on working to try to work my way up the lineup to have my spot in the future. It is great to hear those things and to have positive feedback coming from the player development guys and all of the staff that is there to help us out in the future.
JHM: What kind of reaction did you get from your family and friends back home upon returning from the World Juniors?
DM: The support from back home is unbelievable. The full province of Newfoundland, and from my hometown of Bay Roberts, and all the kids and everyone, we had a lot of people reaching out to us and saying good luck. It really made me feel at home with a ton of support, not just from all of Canada, but toward my home province of Newfoundland. The support back home is tremendous.
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