Coyotes NCAA prospects update

By Jeff Dahlia

The Coyotes currently have 10 prospects in the collegiate ranks. Spread out over four leagues, the franchise currently has three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman active in the nation. Six of the ten prospects lead their teams either statistically, by captaincy or both.

CCHA

Kevin Porter, LW
University of Michigan, senior
4th round, 119th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Since taking over the as team captain and anchoring the Wolverines top line, Porter has emerged as the team’s top player and quite possibly one of the best players in the nation. The big question in Ann Arbor heading into this season was: could Porter fill the void left by departing senior TJ Hensick? Twenty-four games into the season, Porter leads the nation in scoring with 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists), goals per game (.92), and power play goals (12). As a leader, his work and guidance with a younger team has been invaluable. Together with the rest of the senior leaders, the team has taken the nation by storm. As for Porter and his hard work, he’s become a sure-fire candidate for the Hobey Baker Award.

Chad Kolarik, RW
University of Michigan, senior
7th round, 199th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Playing to the right of Porter, Kolarik has been just as instrumental to Michigan’s success. Along with freshman Max Pacioretty early on, the three have been everything you would expect in your top offensive line. Though Pacioretty has missed some time as of late due to an injury, Kolarik and Porter haven’t skipped a beat.  As for the assistant captain, he leads the team in shots (112), shorthanded goals (3), game-winning goals (5) and is second in team scoring with 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists). He is seeing time in all aspects of the game and has been one of the veteran leaders for the Wolverines.

Chris Summers, D
University of Michigan, sophomore
1st round, 19th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Summers has played a big role solidifying the Wolverines’ back end this year. Summers is an integral part in Michigan’s young defensive unit, playing alongside junior Mark Mitera for the majority of the year. The sophomore has seen some time up at forward again, which shows just how much confidence head coach Red Berenson has in him. It also goes to show how much confidence Berenson has in his blueline crew, which boasts five freshmen. Even though the move up front shows his overall skill and ability (most notably his silky-smooth skating), the Milan, Michigan native has done his best work back on defense. He currently ranks third in scoring by a defenseman on the Wolverines with 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 22 games played. He also missed time to play for Team USA at the 2008 WJC.

Chris Frank, D
Western Michigan University, junior
7th round, 188th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

It’s been a rough year for the entire Western Michigan program. Currently sitting last in the CCHA with a 2-14-0 overall record, there is little chance the Broncos can end the season at .500 like they did last year. Frank is one of the older players on a really balanced roster and was named as one of four captains by head coach Jim Culhane. The third-year blueliner has been playing a more controlled game and has been leading by example. The defensive-defenseman has an honest five points (1 goal, 4 assists) and 53 penalty minutes. He’s been playing the left side and is often paired with Tyler Ludwig, but he has had his partner switched up occasionally at times throughout the season. Just this last weekend in a contest against Bowling Green University, Frank was a part of a 10-player melee that ended with all the players earning a fighting major. In the NCAA, such penalty comes with an automatic one-game suspension.

WCHA

Blake Wheeler, RW
University of Minnesota, junior
1st round, 5th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

After graduating key players and losing a couple underclassmen to the NHL, Kyle Okposo was supposed to be the team’s guiding light this season up front. However, as Okposo sputtered out of the gate and the team lost Ryan Stoa to a nasty knee injury, it was Blake Wheeler who gravitated to the top and led the charge. Feeling his development was stalling with Gophers as they were trying to find themselves as a team, Okposo jumped ship during the holiday break and opted to sign with the New York Islanders. With the added absence up front, this opened the door for Wheeler to officially take over as the team’s offensive leader. Wheeler has continued to grow both mentally and physically up until this point. He has led the team in scoring early on, and he still leads the Gophers to date with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 25 games played. Though defenseman Derek Peltier is listed as the team’s official captain this season, having Wheeler step up under pressure and in unfavorable times is paying dividends for the underclassmen and the coaching staff.

Kyle Turris, C
University of Wisconsin, freshman
1st round, 3rd overall, 2007 NHL Entry Draft

The University of Wisconsin program has sputtered at times this year even with the influx of talent on its roster. Regardless, Turris has been everything the Badgers were hoping for so far this season. After starting off hot, the first-year pivot cooled off and leveled out his production. Then, Turris went on to miss four games during the holiday season as he helped Team Canada capture gold at the WJC. He would lead the team in scoring with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists). Since returning, he has found chemistry with wingers Blake Geoffrion and Patrick Johnson. This has been a good move for the Badgers as they have moved Ben Street over from left wing to center, which has given Wisconsin two well-balanced scoring lines. Turris has collected five points in his last four games, and is a point ahead of Street for the lead in scoring with 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in 20 games played. An admitted area of focus heading into college, Turris still needs to work on is his size and strength.

Hockey East

Benn Ferriero, C
Boston College, junior
7th round, 196th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Boston College entered the season ranked second overall in the nation. About a month into the season, they almost fell off the rankings altogether as the team struggled to finish off opponents. With the winter solstice fast approaching a month ago, the Eagles found a divine time to turn the heat up on the competition. Anchoring one of the top lines, Benn Ferriero has helped the Eagles turn back the tide, as BC is collecting wins and climbing back up the polls. In his last 10 games – which appears to be the big turning point for the Eagles – Ferriero has tallied 16 points and BC has gone 8-1-1. The junior pivot has ascended to third in team scoring with 27 points (9 goals, 18 assists) in 22 games.

Brett Bennett, G
Boston University, sophomore
5th round, 130th overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

With a good part of their roster intact from last year, one would have thought that Boston University would have been in the thick of things this season. After battling injuries, character issues and inconsistency all over the ice, the Terriers are ”roughing” it this year. One of the bigger issues has been between the pipes, which brings us to Brett Bennett. Between the Coyotes prospect and senior Karson Gillespie, neither one has earned the right to be the team’s No. 1 goalie. In his first full season of action after seeing only one game as a freshman, Bennett has yet to settle in and return to form. He currently has a 6-5-3 record, a 3.14 goals-against average and a .865 save percentage.

ECAC

Will Engasser, LW
Yale University, senior
9th round, 261st overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Even though the Bulldogs have an 8-7-3 record, the Elis could conceivably end the season strong. It’s a shot in the dark, but they may also be able to finish with a winning record, their first since the conclusion of the 2002-03 season. Head coach Keith Allain and his staff has kept the team in a lot of tight battles throughout the year and has pulled off some wins against bigger or stronger programs. With players like senior captain Will Engasser and sophomores Sean Backman and Mark Arcobello stepping up, a winning season is plausible. Engasser has come on strong as of late, registering a point in five of the Bulldogs last six contests and 10 of 14 on the year. Collectively, Engasser has complied 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 14 games, which is his highest season point total since stepping onto campus in New Haven three seasons ago.

Patrick Brosnihan, RW
Yale University, junior
7th round, 212th overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

While Engasser seems to be soaring, junior winger Pat Brosnihan has only seen action in 10 of the Bulldogs first 18 contests. He has been a healthy scratch on several occasions. Brosnihan had remained off the scorer’s sheet until earlier this month when he posted two goals and an assist in a 9-1 drubbing of the University of Connecticut.