The Phoenix Coyotes currently have six of their top 20 prospects playing with AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage. They recently lost prospect Viktor Tikhonov, officially on loan to Severstal of the KHL, but he is expected to return to North America next season. With a record of 9-11-2, the Ramage have gotten off to a slow start and are at the bottom of the AHL’s West Division. They have already undergone a coaching change this year.
Brett MacLean, LW
After putting together a solid rookie season with the Rampage, the 21-year-old MacLean has continued to show the same penchant for goal scoring that made him put up 61 in his final year in the OHL. He has a team-leading 11 goals, which currently has him sitting in sixth place among all AHL players. MacLean has been particularly strong on the power play, tallying six power-play markers which also ranks him among the league leaders. He is well on his way to surpassing his rookie season when he scored 21 goals and totaled 40 points. At every level he has played, MacLean has proven his ability to score goals, and as his skating continues to improve, MacLean is on track for the NHL.
Having not played a game since Nov. 15, the 22-year-old Ahnelov has yet to show the consistency needed to become a regular in the Rampage lineup. Coming off a rookie season that saw him impress with his skating ability as well as an aggressive style of play, Ahnelov was expected to produce much more in his second season. The 6’3 rearguard has appeared in 11 games, collecting one assist in a limited role with the club. Ahnelov will need to take advantage of any playing time he gets in San Antonio the rest of the way if he wants to improve on a rocky start to his sophomore campaign.
Kevin Porter, C
The 23-year-old Porter has enjoyed a hot start to the season and emerged as one of the team’s go-to players. After splitting time last year between Phoenix and San Antonio, Porter hoped to crack the Coyotes roster out of camp, but when it didn’t happen he would still be counted on as one of the leaders for the Rampage. With 20 points in 20 games, the University of Michigan product has shown consistent play throughout the year and with 36 games already under his belt at the NHL level, Porter continues to be on the Coyotes radar.
Nick Ross, D
The Coyotes first-round pick in 2007, Ross has split his first full season in pro hockey, starting the year with the ECHL affiliate Las Vegas Wranglers before getting called up to San Antonio in early November. Ross has played in nine games with the Rampage, registering one assist. Like many young defensemen, it has taken some time for Ross to adjust to a much faster game speed, but the 20-year-old has proven to be a solid two-way blueliner wherever he has played and will be given plenty of time to continue his development.
Chad Kolarik, RW
Like Porter, Kolarik is another high-scoring forward from U of M who has gotten off to a nice start in his second season in the AHL. The quick skating 23-year-old has found the back of the net eight times and has notched seven assists in his 22 games to date. Kolarik hopes to surpass a rookie campaign that saw him score 20 times en route to a solid 50-point season, but will need to show a stronger commitment to defense in order to make the jump to the next level.
The 22-year-old Schlemko has continued to impress with his rapid development that has recently seen him become a regular on the Coyotes blue line. The undrafted, high-scoring defenseman began the year on the farm where he appeared in 13 games before getting the call to Phoenix. Now 14 games into his season with the Coyotes, Schlemko has fit right in with a team that has defied all the odds to become a playoff contender in the Western Conference. He has put up five points and maintained a solid +3 rating in those 14 games, and has also seen some time on the power play, collecting two assists with the man advantage.
Colin Long, C
After wrapping up an impressive junior career with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL in which he twice scores 30 goals and put up consecutive 90-point seasons, the 20-year-old center is in his first season in professional hockey. Playing mostly on the third and fourth lines, Long has gotten off to a rather slow start with just three points in 19 games. Although points have been tough to come by so far for the former Rockets captain, Long has demonstrated a solid work ethic all season and as his playing time increases, he hopes to show the same kind of skill that made him such a dangerous scorer in junior.
Two prospects are currently playing with the Coyotes ECHL affiliate, the Las Vegas Wranglers. Twenty-two-year-old goaltender Joel Gistedt, a second-round pick in 2007 has appeared in five uninspiring games for the Wranglers, compiling a record of 1-2 with a 5.03 GAA and a .817 save percentage. An undrafted player, 21-year-old forward Justin Bernhardt, started the season in Las Vegas but was called up to San Antonio where he has played in six games but is yet to get on the score sheet.