Entering the 2014-15 season, many Arizona Coyotes fans were quietly wondering if Max Domi would bring any scoring punch to the desert as an NHL rookie in 2014-15. They were blindsided when he was unceremoniously returned to the OHL’s London Knights without even a sniff of regular season NHL action.
Domi is the most promising Coyotes prospect playing in the CHL. There are also less heralded overagers, like Yan-Pavel Laplante, looking to make a final impact before entering the ultra-competitive professional ranks. The 2014 draftees are naturally Arizona’s most plentiful class in the junior ranks. With the exception of Brendan Perlini, just about every one of these prospects has made significant strides in development. Each has grown in unique ways crucial to their style of play. For example, Ryan MacInnis continues to hone his offensive abilities while Dysin Mayo is methodically growing more consistent in his own zone. Most appear to be ironing out perceived weaknesses from their draft year and becoming more versatile.
Laurent Dauphin, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Acquired: 2nd Round (39th Overall), 2013
Despite playing on a bottom-dwelling Chicoutimi club, Dauphin’s season is off to a good start. In 16 games, Dauphin has scored 11 goals and 11 assists. He was named one of the QMJHL’s three stars for the final week of October.
Once again, Dauphin was selected to represent the QMJHL in the Subway Super Series against Team Russia. The Super Series was a bump in the road for Dauphin in 2013-14. He checked Russia’s Igor Baldaev from behind and received a suspension that ultimately held him out of six QMJHL games.
Yan-Pavel Laplante, C, Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: 3rd Round (62nd Overall), 2013
Laplante’s game appears to have evolved in 2014-15. He has always been a tough player that excels in the dirty areas. He projects as a fourth-line center who brings energy. Yet, as an overager, he has tallied 20 points in 16 games. This is a much higher scoring pace than he has previously displayed in the QMJHL. His increased productivity is not an indication of any late-breaking scoring upside. Laplante will never skate on a scoring line in the NHL but forwards capable of playing on big league rosters in any capacity generally produce at a high rate in junior hockey.
Laplante, like Dauphin, was also selected to the QMJHL roster for the Super Series.
Max Domi, C, London Knights
Acquired: 1st Round (12th Overall), 2013
Domi has displayed increased maturity this season. In 2013-14, he reacted poorly to being sent back to London following Coyotes training camp. Unable to find the line between solid, hard-nosed hockey and needless chippiness, Domi took several poor penalties which directly affected his team’s ability to win games. Ultimately, he was hit with a four-game suspension due to a headshot on the Guelph Storm’s Brock McGinn.
This season, by all accounts, Domi had a legitimate bid on a roster spot with the Coyotes. Instead, he was sent back down to London. He was not even afforded the nine-game audition many players of his caliber receive. Instead of sulking, however, he has stepped up. Domi is scoring at a torrid pace with 31 points in just 16 games. He has also been named the captain of the retooling Knights.
Although listed as a center on the Coyotes’ depth chart, Domi has been deployed almost exclusively on the wing. His line is typically centered by Montreal Canadiens 6’6 first round selection Mike McCarron. Domi also plays occasionally with fellow Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak, but he appears to have achieved quick chemistry with McCarron. The two have had several multiple-goal games already, controlling the puck for prolonged amounts of time in the opponent’s zone.
If London endeavors to be a serious contender in the OHL, Domi’s line will have to continue to dominate in order to cover for a defensive corps that is nowhere near as capable as last season, when they hosted the Memorial Cup.
Domi will represent the OHL in the Subway Super Series.
Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 1st Round, 12th Overall), 2014
Arizona’s latest first round selection has not seen the ice since training camp, when he broke his hand in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings. The 6’3, 210 pound winger should be able to rebound relatively easily from the injury because it has not prevented him from skating or engaging in core exercises. Without Perlini’s scoring punch, the IceDogs are 2-10-0 and at the bottom of the OHL standings.
Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 2nd Round (43rd Overall) 2014
Macinnis has been deployed as a first-line center for the Rangers throughout the early portion of 2014-15. With six goals and 16 assists in 19 games, his scoring production could improve given the role he plays. Still, it is a small sample size and his increased scoring rate is a step in the right direction. The bottom line is that Kitchener has been winning games. As long as this remains the case, Macinnis should benefit from some latitude.
Christian Dvorak, LW, London Knights
Acquired: 2nd Round (58th Overall), 2014
Dvorak continues to be an excellent defensive forward this season. He is one of the best penalty killers in the OHL. These aspects of his game are no different from 2013-14 when he was deployed on London’s third line.
Dvorak’s increased scoring is a new development. He has played some with fellow Coyotes prospect Max Domi, but his most frequent linemates are Mitchell Marner and Matt Rupert. The bottom line is that Dvorak has clearly put last season’s ACL injury behind him and evolved his game. Through 21 games he has 13 goals and 18 assists, good enough for ninth in the OHL scoring race.
Michael Bunting, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 4th Round (117th Overall), 2014
The Greyhounds have one of the best records in the OHL’s Western Conference and look to be sticking around for a while with Darnell Nurse’s return from Edmonton. Bunting is another big reason for their success. Although Sheldon Keefe seems to relish shuffling up the Soo’s line combinations, Bunting typically skates on a line that is deployed as the Greyhounds’ top scoring unit. He is second on the team in scoring with 23 points.
Bunting continues to exhibit his abrasive approach to the game, which helps him get in the opponent’s head. Much of his line’s scoring is the product of his relentless effort in front of the net, battling to provide screens and gobble up rebounds, which he frequently converts into goals with his composed hands in tight.
Edgars Kulda, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 7th Round (193rd Overall), 2014
After winning the Memorial Cup in 2013-14, the Oil Kings graduated several key pieces such as Coyotes prospect Henrik Samuelsson and Senators property Curtis Lazar. The rebuild is an opportunity for players like Kulda.
Early on the team has been muddled in the middle of the WHL’s Central Division standings. Likewise, Kulda has found reasonable success skating on his off wing on a scoring line centered by Lane Bauer with Mads Eller on the left side. He has six goals and six assists in 15 games.
Kulda has been scratched since a loss to the Everett Silvertips on November 1st.
Marek Langhamer, G, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: 7th Round (184th Overall), 2012
After signing an entry-level deal with the Coyotes over the summer, Langhamer is again among the top goalies in the WHL. If he was Canadian, he would almost certainly be in net for the WHL in the Subway Super Series. In 13 starts, Langhamer has compiled a goals against average of 2.30 and .910 save percentage. Along with the numbers, he has also provided timely goaltending. Elevating his game in crucial moments, Langhamer is a big reason that Medicine Hat sits atop their division.
Brendan Burke, G, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 6th Round (163rd Overall), 2013
Burke’s season is off to a rough start. Through 11 starts, he has posted a dismal 3.97 goals against average and .880 save percentage. Burke has struggled with consistency throughout his junior career. Normally he finds a way to right the ship but the Winterhawks may not be willing to afford him the latitude to reclaim his game this season. They recently acquired Bolton Pouliot from the Kamloops Blazers, creating a logjam of three goaltenders at the position.
To be fair, the Winterhawks are a poor team. They are stalled at the bottom of the WHL’s U.S. division. A big reason for this is poor play on the blueline and poor execution of defensive hockey principles in general; Portland would make many goaltenders look bad.
At the very least, the goaltending shakeup in Portland indicates that Burke may no longer rest easy as the incumbent. He must prove himself once again.
Dysin Mayo, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 5th Round (133rd Overall), 2014
Mayo was a key defenseman last season in the Oil Kings run to the Memorial Cup Championship. Now, with the Oil Kings graduating several key pieces of that championship club, Mayo is being asked to step into a leadership role, being named one of the team’s alternate captains.
In recent games Mayo has been paired with Ashton Sautner, and the two are deployed as Edmonton’s top pairing. Mayo has always been comfortable with the puck on his stick, which makes him a good fit for the Oil Kings this season. Edmonton has struggled to generate offense from their forward lines, instead constantly activating their defensemen and having them jump into the rush and pinch in the offensive zone.
Tobias Rieder and Brandon Gormley have both been recalled to the Arizona Coyotes. It is not a surprise to see Gormley in the NHL as many assumed he would break training camp on the Coyotes roster. It is somewhat more surprising to see Rieder get a shot this early. However, he has been excellent in all three zones since joining the organization and Arizona is desperate for scoring. In his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals, he scored his first NHL goal. It was the game-winner in the third period.
With three goals and seven assists in 12 games for the Portland Pirates, Brendan Shinnimin is finally beginning to display the offensive upside which made him a WHL Player of the Year in 2012 and influenced the Coyotes to sign him as an undrafted free agent. It certainly is not coincidence that his increase in output comes after the departure of Andy Miele. With Miele out of the picture, Shinnimin is benefitting from more offensive zones starts and better linemates.
Overall, the Pirates have improved from last season when they missed the playoffs. The team is 8-8-0-0, keeping themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot. Injury has prevented incumbent starter Mark Visentin from making any appearances but Louis Domingue has looked solid with a 2.29 goals against average and .922 save percentage in 7 starts.
Arizona Coyotes Prospect of the Month: October
Max Domi’s performance clearly stands out among his peers throughout Arizona’s prospect pipeline. Being the fourth leading scorer in the OHL speaks for itself, but his attitude and reaction to adversity stand out even more. It would have been almost understandable for Domi to have sulked following his post-training camp demotion. In fact, many CHL overagers do just that, slump when they return from an NHL training camp. His refusal to do so is an indication of a maturity and character which will carry him through many difficult nights when he does soon experience the peaks and valleys of a rookie season in the NHL.