WASHINGTON — Prior to the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Capitals on Saturday, the club made another foray into the college free agent pool, signing Ohio State forward Georgii Merkulov to a three-year contract that will begin next season.
Merkulov, a 21-year-old freshman, led Ohio State in scoring this season with 20 goals and 34 points after playing the previous two seasons at Youngstown of the USHL. He’ll report to AHL Providence for the remainder of this season, playing under an amateur tryout agreement.
Last month, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney signed Billerica forward Marc McLaughlin as a free agent out of Boston College. McLaughlin, 22, on Sunday played in his fourth game in Black and Gold here, lining up on the No. 2 line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula.
Merkulov, who grew up some 150 miles southeast of Moscow, was somewhat of a surprise for the Buckeyes in his first year of NCAA Division 1 play.
The potential to score at the next level is what attracted the Bruins to select a similar forward, left winger Jakub Lauko, in the 2018 draft. Hindered somewhat by injury, the speedy Lauko has yet to find his offensive touch in two-plus seasons with the WannaBs.
Meanwhile, blue-chip Ohio State prospect Mason Lohrei, the Bruins’ top pick (No. 58) in the 2020 draft, as of this hour remains on the Buckeye roster for next season. In recent comments, however, Sweeney left open the possibility that the 6-foot-4 defenseman could opt to turn pro. Lohrei, from Verona, Wis., finished second to Merkulov in Ohio State scoring (4-25—29 in 31 games) after playing the two prior seasons at USHL Green Bay.
Merkulov’s deal, good through the 2024-25 season, would pay him an average $925,000 at the NHL level. Per capfriendly.com, the deal will pay out a minimum $517,000 between signing bonuses and salary ($80,000) at the minor league level.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.