Prospects in the Phoenix Coyotes pool received very little playoff exposure in 2013-14. The Coyotes, as well as the AHL Portland Pirates and the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators, all had down years and failed to qualify for postseason action.
If Arizona had qualified for the playoffs, Connor Murphy, Jordan Szwarz, and possibly Brandon Gormley would have tasted their first NHL postseason and played the most important hockey of their lives. Unfortunately, the Coyotes failed to make a solid push in the last five games of the regular season and were edged out by the Dallas Stars. This was a missed opportunity for the organization in regards to the development of these prospects.
As a consolation, Connor Murphy was selected to represent the United States at the 2014 World Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Murphy was essentially the American’s extra defenseman at the tournament.
The Portland Pirates had a very difficult year which started with the team being evicted from their arena and exiled toward the Canadian border in Lewiston. It ended with the team missing the playoffs.
Like Murphy, Tobias Rieder and Andy Miele played in the World Championships. Representing a thoroughly outgunned German squad, Rieder managed just a goal in seven games. On an American roster loaded with depth, Miele appeared in just four games and played the least of all their forwards.
Arizona had three prospects skating in the QMJHL in 2013-14. Laurent Dauphin played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Justin Hache for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Yan-Pavel Laplante for the Victoriaville Tigres. All three teams were bounced in the first round.
Arizona had two notable prospects skating in the OHL playoffs. Tyler Gaudet, a free agent signing who has impressed scouts and coaches throughout the league with his penalty-killing and work ethic, dressed for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Greyhounds advanced past the Owen Sound Attack 4-1 in the first round before getting swept by the Erie Otters. Gaudet produced two goals and six assists in the two rounds.
Max Domi, Arizona’s first round selection in 2013, was a core piece of a London Knights team bursting at the seams with first-round draft picks and can’t-miss prospects. They were rolled out of the playoffs in the second round by the top-seeded Guelph Storm, four games to one. Domi registered four goals and six assists in nine OHL playoff games.
However, as the host city of the Memorial Cup, the Knights had a shot at redemption. Despite the oodles of talent and their player’s fair share of individual success (Domi had 93 points in 61 regular season games), the Knights never got truly on track in 2013-14. Unfortunately for them, redemption never happened. Their doors were blown off in their own house. London lost all three games of the round robin by a combined score of 13-3. Domi, who was rumored to have been playing through an upper-body injury, managed to contribute a pair of assists.
Brendan Burke and Marek Langhamer were two of the best goalies in the WHL playoffs. Langhamer’s Medicine Hat Tigers advanced to the semi-finals before falling to Henrik Samuelsson’s Edmonton Oil Kings. Brendan Burke’s Portland Winterhawks rode all the way to the WHL finals before being dispatched by Edmonton as well.
Henrik Samuelsson was an absolute stud in the playoffs. He was the Oil Kings top scorer in the WHL playoffs, scoring eight goals and 15 assists in 21 games. While generating this production, he also contributed a playoff strain of his signature nastiness while playing a tight defensive game.
Samuelsson’s stellar play continued in the Memorial Cup. He led the tournament in scoring with four goals and four assists in five games. The Oil Kings got off to a rough start, losing the first game of the round robin 5-2 to Guelph. They recovered with a 5-2 victory over London which qualified them for the playoff round. They beat Val d’Or in triple overtime of the semifinal to advance to the championship game.
In a rematch against Guelph in the Memorial Cup Championship, Samuelsson had arguably the best game he has ever played. He had two goals and three assists but the points do not tell the whole story. Samuelsson and linemate Mitchell Moroz (EDM) dominated possession every single shift. They exited their own zone at will. They skated the puck into the offensive zone with apparent ease. The goals and assists were just a by-product of a remarkable game by a player with so many tools at his disposal.
Prospects Hunter Fejes, Zac Larrazza, Rhett Holland, Greg Carey, and Connor Clifton all played in the NCAA this season. Only Clifton’s Quinnipiac Bobcats managed to qualify for the NCAA tournament this season.
Quinnipiac was hoping to follow up their 2013 run to the National Championship Game with another deep push but they were bounced by Providence in the first round. Clifton was given a five-minute major for checking from behind and ejected from the game. The infraction had little bearing on the outcome as it occurred late in the third when the game was well in hand for the Friars.
In Liiga, the Espoo Blues loaned Niklas Tikkinen to SYP midway through 2013-14. Tikkinen didn’t dress for any playoff games. SYP lost to SaiPa in seven games in the quarterfinals.
Other Notes & Signings
Phoenix added some depth to their prospect pool with late season free agent signings. Greg Carey was signed out of St. Lawrence University in the ECAC. Daniel O’Donoghue was also signed out of the NCAA when his final season of eligibility with Mercyhurst came to a close.