A year removed from finishing last in the AHL with just 61 points, the Portland Pirates, primary affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes, have shown respectable improvements this season. Through 35 games, the Pirates are 19-15-1, scoring 87 goals and allowing 82, having won their last four games.
Much like production in Arizona, the Pirates’ offense is a collective. No player has scored more than ten goals, and that team-leading stat belongs to Alexandre Bolduc, who was recently recalled. Prospects Brendan Shinnimin, Jordan Martinook and Lucas Lessio have impressed up front. Between the pipes, Arizona’s 2010 first-round pick Mark Visentin has been sidelined all season, but Louis Domingue has looked solid in seven appearances as a backup to veteran Mike McKenna.
Henrik Samuelsson, C, 20
In his first pro season, Henrik Samuelsson has struggled to find offensive consistency, but the organization hopes the acquisition of his brother, Philip, helps the prized prospect acclimate to life in the AHL.
He is arguably the prospect with the best ceiling in Portland, but he does not yet possess the consistency to be a top-line contributor game in and game out. He has played in all but four of the team’s 35 games to date and has contributed five goals and ten assists to go along with 28 penalty minutes. He has had stretches of solid games (six points in four games from October 31st to November 8th), but has also been held pointless in four consecutive games twice this season. He has been getting decent minutes on the power-play this season, and as long as the Pirates continue to put him in situations to thrive, he should progress nicely in the second half of the season.
Tobias Reider, RW, 21
A fourth round pick of the Edmonton Oilers back in 2011, Tobias Reider may have played his last games in Portland. After an impressive rookie campaign last year, the quick-skating German winger took advantage of an early-season call-up and has made good in Arizona with ten points through his first 28 games. His spot in Arizona is by no means cemented, but he has already proven to be a solid offensive player in the AHL. In Portland, Reider started the season off with four goals and one assist through nine games. Two of those goals were shorthanded. In his first game against the club that drafted him, he also registered two shorthanded goals.
Phil Lane, RW, 22
Playing in his third season in the AHL, Phil Lane has yet to establish a consistent offensive game to go along with his quality checking attributes. The former Brampton Battalion standout possesses good size and often plays better when he is more involved physically. He has just four points in 23 games this season. His best two-game stretch -in which he registered three points- came at the end of November, following a game in which Lane dropped the gloves. Those were his first penalty minutes of the season, though he has since fought in an early December game. He may not get to the 14-goal mark established as a rookie in 2012-13, but there are still positives to take from Lane’s game, albeit not on a consistent basis.
Jordan Szwarz, RW, 23
At 23, Jordan Szwarz is at a critical juncture in his young career. After three seasons in Portland, and a 26-game stint with the big club last season, last year’s captain was rewarded with a two-year contract. At the expiration of the contract, Szwarz will be 26 years old and needs to prove that he can be a reliable presence in order to earn a longer-term deal. Injuries have limited Szwarz to just 13 games this season, in which he has recorded five points.
Brendan Shinnimin, C, 23
Since coming into the AHL, former Tri-City American Brendan Shinnimin has been a solid secondary scorer. This season, the 23-year-old winger is third on the team in scoring with 18 points through 31 games. He has been readily available to play both on the power play and penalty kill and has scored a goal on each unit this season. A versatile winger, his game has taken a big step forward this season. He is pointless in his last five games and has scored just one goal in December. He did make his NHL debut this season and has appeared in two games to date.
Jordan Martinook, C, 22
Like Shinnimin, Martinook has been a fairly consistent secondary scorer for the Pirates over the past two seasons, putting up a total of 22 goals and 50 points in that span. As one of the positive surprises of this season, Martinook has emerged as one of the team’s top offensive options. Through 31 games, Martinook has 20 points, including two shorthanded goals. He has been shuffled throughout the lineup this season, but produces wherever he might be asked to play. He is shooting more this season than last, and his shooting percentage is trending up as well. The 2012 second rounder is finally rounding into form. He was not productive in two games at the NHL level, but could see further opportunities as the season goes deeper.
Tyler Gaudet, C, 21
In his first pro season, Gaudet, who had his troubles adjusting to the game in October, has settled in nicely. In 17 games since the beginning of November, Gaudet has scored six points in bottom-six ice time, for a total of eight points in 30 games. He also has a shorthanded goal this season and was another member of the Portland Pirates to join the Coyotes for a brief introduction to the NHL. He was pointless in two appearances at that level.
Lucas Lessio, LW, 21
A second-year pro, Lessio’s production has tailed off following a promising rookie year in the AHL. The 6’1 winger tallied 29 goals and 54 points last season, but has just nine goals through 26 games this year, despite registering 80 shots on goal. The 2011 second round pick is still a valuable player for the Pirates. He was enough of a scorer for the Oshawa Generals that it is reasonable to assume he can be a valuable checker even at the NHL level.
Brandon Gormley, D, 22
Once a top prospect, big blueliner Brandon Gormley has yet to cement a spot with the Coyotes despite stints of five and nine games in the past two seasons. Injuries have taken a toll on a very promising development curve, but Gormley is still on track to be an impact NHL player. He was recalled by the club prior to the Christmas break, after playing three games in December with the Pirates. In nine games with Portland, he has three points, while he has the same total in seven games with Arizona. Both player and organization are hoping he can stick with the big club in 2015.
James Melindy, D, 21
Like Gormley, Melindy, a third round pick in 2012, is caught in a bit of an organizational limbo. In Melindy’s case, the Newfoundland native has been bouncing back and forth between Portland of the AHL and Gwinnett of the ECHL. The lanky blueliner has played 20 games between both levels, registering just one assist.
Philip Samuelsson, D, 23
A defensive defenseman, Philip Samuelsson’s game is about positioning and keeping defenders to the outside. Since coming to Portland from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he has played his game admirably, registering a +4 rating through 13 games, while adding a goal and two assists.
Louis Domingue, G, 22
After an impressive October and November, in which he started in seven games, Louis Domingue has yet to see the ice in December. With heralded prospect Mark Vistentin already on injured reserve, Domingue has been sidelined since November 15th, when he left a game against Albany after being crashed into by an opposition player. His 2.29 goals against average and .922 save percentage, albeit in a small sample size, is much improved from last year’s mark.
Arizona Coyotes Prospect of the Month
Arizona’s 2013 first round pick, Max Domi was obviously disappointed not to make the Coyotes’ roster out of training camp. He has used this season as a member of the London Knights to put up excellent numbers, with 58 points in 27 games in the first part of the season. He was able to show his promising skills for Team Canada at the World Juniors as well. Playing on a line with two players who have seen NHL time this season in Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair, Domi was top-five in scoring for the tournament with ten points in seven games, including a brilliant pass to start the scoring for Canada in the gold-medal match, giving them a lead the team would not relinquish.
Non-Minor League Prospect Roundup
2014 third-round pick Anton Karlsson played in the World Juniors as well, representing fourth-place Team Sweden. Though he saw mostly bottom-six minutes in the teams’ deployment, Karlsson registered two assists.
Highly-touted 2014 first rounder Brendan Perlini missed the first two months of the season after injuring his hand during the preseason. Since returning to the Niagara IceDogs lineup he has been the team’s top forward, scoring 13 points in eight December contests. On December 18th against Owen Sound, Perlini scored four points in an 8-7 win, recording the game winner in overtime, already his sixth game-winning goal of the season. Perlini’s return after months away from the ice without missing a beat is an impressive feat.
Edmonton Oil Kings teammates Dysin Mayo and Edgars Kulda are having different kinds of seasons. Latvian overager Kulda has been sidelined with injury while Mayo is off to a very respectable first half, with 30 points in 40 games.
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