Coyotes Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By Jeff Dahlia

Over the last few seasons, the Coyotes have had a solid list of talent, which has catapulted the franchise to high in the organizational rankings here at Hockey’s Future. But it’s rather likely that this will be the last time we’ll see quite the compilation of prospects below. The 2009 draft will help Phoenix stock back up, but the future inventory will be a far cry from what we’ve seen over the last few lists.

As for the prospects, the franchise has firepower upfront and a quality mix of defensemen littered throughout the latest top 20. The goalie position has been quite the quagmire for the club, as the most unexpected players are beating out those you’d expect to either rank rather high.

Since last fall’s top 20, Keith Yandle and Enver Lisin have graduated and both are playing with the Coyotes. Exiting the list this time around are Logan Stephenson, Joel Gistedt, and Alex Bourret. Stephenson was traded to the Anaheim Ducks earlier this year, while both Gistedt and Bourret missed the cut.

Top 20 at a glance

1.    Kyle Turris
2.    Mikkel Boedker
3.    Viktor Tikhonov
4.    Kevin Porter
5.    Jonas Ahnelov
6.    Chris Summers
7.    Brett MacLean
8.    Nick Ross
9.    Chad Kolarik
10.    Maxim Goncharov
11.    Jared Staal
12.    Josh Tordjman
13.    David Schlemko
14.    Benn Ferriero
15.    Scott Darling
16.    Michael Stone
17.    Sean Sullivan
18.    Vladimir Ruzicka 
19.    Al Montoya
20.    Colin Long

Key: Current Rank (Previous Rank), Name, Position

How Acquired, Age, Height, Weight

1. (1) Kyle Turris, C
1st round, 3rd – 2007, 19, 6’2, 170

Regardless of his recent demotion to San Antonio in the AHL, Turris is the future of the franchise. After spending two-thirds of the season with the Coyotes, Turris wasn’t getting the ice time to develop into the player everyone expected. Now with the Rampage, the rookie is getting meaningful minutes and has attacked his latest challenge. With multiple points in his first few games, Turris is going to benefit from playing with talented core under head coach Greg Ireland’s watchful eye. There is no timetable for his return to Phoenix and there doesn’t need to be. The talent is there, now it’s just a matter of time until everything falls into place.

2. (2) Mikkel Boedker, LW
1st round, 8th – 2008, 18, 5’11, 195

Boedker hasn’t slowed down since making the jump from the OHL and it appears as if the sky’s the limit for the Great Dane. Not only is he leading all Phoenix rookies in scoring with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 59 games, but he’s also doing it with balance. Averaging just over 15 minutes a game, Boedker’s speed, skill and grit has helped make him a good fit in the Coyotes pesky pursuit and puck-possessive scheme. He’s still a tad green, but he’s gained tons of experience to add to his talent.

3. (4) Viktor Tikhonov, C
1st Round, 28th – 2008, 20, 6’2, 187

Spending time developing Russia before coming back to North America has paid dividends for Viktor Tikhonov. The gritty forward has spent most of this year on the lower lines and has really pushed himself into the picture with his big play. He’s been completely selfless from the get-go and has earned tons of respect from his teammates. Tikhonov’s two-way game has been extremely good. While his offensive output is not off the scale with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in 43 games, but he’s playing a vital role as an energy player. While this is just his first season, expect Tikhonov’s role to continue to expand over the years.

4. (5) Kevin Porter, C
4th Round, 119th – 2004, 22, 5’11, 194

After starting the season with the Coyotes, Kevin Porter has spent the last two months with San Antonio. It’s not for a lack of hard work because the former Hobey Baker winner has done everything asked of him. Between being scratched, then going scoreless and posting a minus-5 in last 11 games with Phoenix, it was clear that Porter was in need of a change of scenery and a pick me up. Porter is by and far the best two-way forward the prospect in the Coyotes system and shouldn’t have a problem living up to those expectations. This refresher with the Rampage shouldn’t be viewed as a negative move, rather a chance to play consistently.

5. (12) Jonas Ahnelov, D
3rd round, 88th – 2006, 19, 6’3, 205

After getting injured in training camp, Ahnelov’s official North American debut was delayed until November. However, since joining the Rampage, Ahnelov is back on track and is looking better and better as the year continues. A defensive-defenseman, the Swede has lived up to his billing. A tough customer in his own end, the first-year player has quickly become the Rampage’s top blueliner. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise about his rise. If it weren’t for the injury, there was talk that he possibly would have started the season in Phoenix. In 38 games, Ahnelov has six points (all assists), 33 penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating in 38 games.

6. (8) Chris Summers, D
1st Round, 29th – 2006, 20, 6’1, 180

For the last three off-seasons, many have wondered if Summers would be willing to ditch the University of Michigan and make at run at his pro career early. The fleet-footed rearguard has looked ready. The junior’s game is really reminiscent of Scott Niedermayer. And like Niedermayer, he’ll get his points here and there, but when his most valuable trait is the ability to maintain control under pressure and move the puck up the ice with grace. He’ll have a spot – obviously to earn – when he leaves Ann Arbor. From there it’s only a matter of time before he helps solidify Phoenix’s back end.

7. (7) Brett MacLean, LW
2nd Round, 32nd – 2007, 19, 6’1, 195

MacLean
didn’t make the Coyotes out of the gate this season, but he didn’t let that stall his progress. He went down to San Antonio and emerged as one of the go-to guys early on. Currently sixth in scoring with 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists) in 56 games, he’s no doubt got the offensive skills to get on the scorer’s sheet with frequency. MacLean hasn’t put up points at the clip he started with, but not all is lost. Since the team has added firepower over the last month, MacLean has had the time to round out his overall game. The focus from here on out for the first-year pro continues to be skating and overall strength.

8. (9) Nick Ross, D
1st round, 30th – 2007, 19, 6’0, 195

Playing on his third team in as many years, Ross can at least be thankful that he’s a wanted man. After starting the season with the Kamloops Blazers, Ross was part of a trade to the Vancouver Giants. Looking to solidify their back end, the Giants went after Ross after Kamloops felt he wouldn’t be back next season. Ross was the top dog for the Blazers and he’s stepped into a bigger role for Vancouver. The Coyotes are not worried about his offensive flair, but they’ve wanted the former first round pick to mature and round out his game. It appears that as the season comes to a close, Ross is where the club expected he would be. He has the skills to jump next fall, but nothing is a given.

9. (11) Chad Kolarik, RW
7th Round, 199th – 2004, 22, 5’11, 170

Like MacLean, when San Antonio needed help upfront when the roster was depleted early on, Chad Kolarik was the other forward to answer the call. After steady play throughout the first two months in the AHL, the former Wolverine exploded last month with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 16 games. He’s remained atop the team scoring (right off David Spina’s lead). With 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 57 games played, Kolarik has also gravitated towards the top of rookie scoring in the AHL. A vicious two-way sniper who’s used in all situations, Kolarik is showing all the tools to make a jump to Phoenix a realistic option in the near future.

10. (NR) Maxim Goncharov, D

5th Round, 123rd – 2007, 19, 6’0, 180

Leading up the to 2007 draft, it was known that Maxim Goncharov had the framework to become a bona fide prospect. But the lack of early interest hinged on his ability to progress and a willingness to come over to North America. The first part of that equation was indisputably answered during the 2009 WJC for Team Russia. He was by far the talk of the town when it came to the Russian team. Goncharov displayed great two-way puck-moving skill in addition to the fact he didn’t shy away for the physical stuff. He led all defensemen in goals scored (5) and was named a top performer on his team. And granted it was only the world juniors, but Goncharov can back up that performance with consecutive solid years developing back home with CSKA Moscow.

11. (20) Jared Staal, RW
2nd Round, 49th – 2008, 18, 6’3, 200

The only Staal in the clan to be selected outside the first round, Jared hasn’t let that become a distraction. From the start, he was earmarked as a young player who needed to grow into his frame and learn how to be an effective player with his size. Including Staal, a handful of players have helped the Sudbury Wolves improve as a club over the year. With 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) to date, it’s safe to say he’s going to set an OHL career high in points this season. However his gritty two-way play is something to keep an eye on.

12. (13) Josh Tordjman, G
Signed as Free Agent – 2005, 22, 6’1, 165

By merely looking at Tordjman’s stats early-on this season, you would have thought his run at the top might have been drying up in San Antonio. But while the team had its staffing issues early and got into quite the mess right off the bat, it was Tordjman who was at the front leading of the team’s resurgence. Since then, Tordjman has continued to shine as his play has translated into wins and top honors around the AHL. To date, he’s posted a 21-20-2 record with a 2.62 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. With work remaining before hitting the bigs, the Montreal, Quebec native will continue to be the front man for the Rampage.

13. (NR) David Schlemko, D

Signed as Free Agent – 2007, 21, 6’1, 195

After a year spending his first pro season in the Central Hockey League with the Arizona Sundogs, David Schlemko has steadily worked his way into the Coyotes depth chart. The former Medicine Hat Tiger has played the majority of the season with the Rampage in the AHL, where he’s been the top offensive threat from the back end. Leading all blueliners in scoring with 23 points (5 goals, 18 assists) in 49 games isn’t as much of a surprise as the improved play in his own end. Solid and dependable two-way play has also earned Schlemko a couple recalls to Phoenix where he has seen action in three games.

14. (16) Benn Ferriero, C

7th Round, 196th – 2006, 21, 5’11, 175

Not a lot of things are going right for Ferriero during his final season at Boston College, but it hasn’t negatively affected him on this ranking. After taking home the national championship last season, the Eagles are just trying to make the postseason this year. BC’s slide doesn’t have to do with a lack of firepower upfront, but a young defense on the back end. When it comes to Ferriero, his numbers have obviously taken a hit because like many other forwards, more time is spent out of the offensive zone. After finishing in the top ten in scoring among Hockey East players last season, he’s nowhere close to that feat this year. Granted he’s third in team scoring with 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists), but surpassing the 40-point plateau for the third straight year is going to be challenging.  

15. (NR) Scott Darling, G

6th Round, 153rd – 2007, 22, 6’5, 200

Coming off an all-star season with the Indiana Ice in the USHL last year, Darling stepped onto campus at the University of Maine with opportunity to come in and be the team’s starting goalie. Darling didn’t waste any time as he grabbed the reins and became one of the top goalies in the nation as a freshman. It was quite the feat, because the Black Bears are a really young team. Maine has showed their “greenness” as of late, but that hasn’t stopped Darling from putting in a solid effort. With a 9-9-3 record in 20 games played, he’s also posted a 2.33 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Two solid seasons in progressive environments clearly supplants Darling as a top up-and-comer in the system.

16. (NR) Michael Stone, D
3rd Round, 69th – 2008, 18, 6’4, 206

Playing on the best team in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen, Michael Stone has done a lot of things right this season. Not only is his overall game improved, but he’s the third leading defenseman in scoring in the WHL with 59 points (18 goals, 41 assists) in 62 games. Packing a huge shot from the back end, Stone has done his part to help make the Hitmen the talk of the league during a career year of his own. The big and tough blueliner also plays with an edge, which will suit him well at the next level. However, there is no rush for the Winnipeg, Manitoba native as he has a couple solid years of development ahead of him. If Stone continues to progress at this rate, Phoenix will have a well-rounded defenseman with tons of size and potential.

17. (18) Sean Sullivan, D

9th Round, 272nd – 2003, 24, 6’0, 190

As anticipated, Sullivan has spent the year with San Antonio where he’s become one of the better defenders for the Rampage this season. He’s always been more than competent in his own zone first and had decent offensive pop. The same still holds true for Sullivan, who’s been consistent all year long. He’s continued to improve his second straight season within the Coyotes system, as he continues to turn in quality minutes down in the AHL. At this point in his career, it would be safe to have Sullivan slotted for a sixth or seventh role with the Coyotes, barring a call-up.

18. (19) Vladimir Ruzicka, C

4th Round, 103rd – 2007, 20, 6’2, 195

For the second straight season, Vladimir Ruzicka is playing in the Czech Extraliga for Slavia Praha. As a 20-year-old on a team that’s stocked with veteran talent, the younger Ruzicka has been regulated to the lower lines for again. But he’s using his time wisely, as he’s chipped in 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) and is a plus-1 in 36 games. He also represented the Czech Republic at the WJC, where he had an average showing on an average team. Currently, Ruzicka has the potential to be a strong third line forward if he continues to progress.

19. (10) Al Montoya, G
Trade with New York Rangers – 2008, 24, 6’2, 190

The Coyotes were hoping that a new environment would provide Montoya a chance to regain his form and step out as a premier goalie prospect. However, it appears that the opposite occured for the fourth-year pro. He was played decent when he reported to the Rampage last year. But all this season, he’s struggled to show any consistency of a goaltender readying himself for a bright NHL future. Scrapping this season and starting over next fall is probably the best bet for him.

20. (NR) Colin Long, C
4th Round, 99th – 2008, 19, 5’11, 183

If there was any doubt that Colin Long’s point explosion was a fluke last season, it’s safe to say that the Kelowna Rockets forward and captain is silencing any detractors. With 76 points (30 goals, 46 assists) in 57 games, he’s on pace to improve on his 100-point total from last year. It helps that he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast, but Long deserves credit for making things happen night in and night out for the Rockets. Not only is he a quality distributor, but Long is just as capable burying the puck too. The Santa Ana, California native has some time to go, but with the steady development in the WHL he definitely kept the Coyotes interested in his progress.