OHL stars headline Arizona Coyotes Top 20 prospects

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Arizona Coyotes top prospect Max Domi will be tasked with helping the franchise rebound next season. (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Photo: Arizona Coyotes top prospect Max Domi will be tasked with helping the franchise rebound next season. (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

Beside the play of top-line defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, it has been a relatively forgettable year for the Arizona Coyotes. The team is firmly out of a playoff position and well off-pace to match last season’s total of 89 points, which landed them ninth in the Western Conference. Arizona’s AHL team, the Portland Pirates, is middle-of-the-pack but holding on to a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Fortunately, many of the team’s prospects playing outside of the organization have had banner seasons – Christian Dvorak for one – and have risen rapidly up the organization’s prospect rankings.

1. (2) Max Domi, C, 8.0C
Drafted: 1st round, 12th overall, 2013

The idea that Max Domi might be too small to succeed in the NHL has not completely vanished, but it is fading quickly. Domi found immediate success with Canadian World Junior linemates Anthony Duclair (NYR) and Sam Reinhart (BUF) and rode that chemistry all the way to earning recognition as the tournament’s top forward. On the big stage, Domi proved himself to be a big-game player and, though he does stand just 5’9, he weighs 185 pounds, and is hard to knock off his feet with his low center of gravity.

His play in the OHL, leading the high-powered London Knights, has also been inspiring. In fact, not only have Coyotes scouts been keeping an eye on the second generation talent, but his future teammates in Arizona have taken notice as well. Domi’s highlight reel goal against Sarnia in January was one of the most talked about goals in all of hockey. As evidenced by the goal, in which he quickly flips the puck over a charging netminder and bats it into the gaping net, Domi’s hockey sense and creativity are off the charts. He has 75 points in 41 games this season and is expected to play full-time in Arizona next year.

2. (1) Brandon Gormley, D, 8.0C
Drafted: 1st round, 13th overall, 2010

In his third season as a pro, Brandon Gormley has yet to cement his spot in Arizona, despite strong numbers at the AHL level. The 22-year-old PEI native dressed in 15 games for the Coyotes this year, scoring twice and adding one assist, but was sent back to Portland in late January upon returning from injury.

When playing with Portland, Gormley is the team’s top option defensively, playing in all situations. In 16 games he has seven points, including a pair of game-winning goals. Still Gormley has been back and forth between Arizona and Portland several times this season and seems unable to find his comfort level. As of February 10th, however, he has played seven straight with Portland and appears to be hitting his stride. He recorded an assist and was a +3 in a recent game against the St. John’s Ice Caps. Given the Coyotes’ standing in the NHL this season, it would seem to make sense to give Gormley a real chance to develop at that level. Instead, the club recently called up 27-year-old Andrew Campbell, a veteran of six AHL seasons.

3. (3) Henrik Samuelsson, C, 7.5C
Drafted: 1st round, 27th overall, 2012

It has taken Henrik Samuelsson some time to adjust to life in the AHL but, as expected, the former Edmonton Oil Kings standout has found his footing. In 45 games with the Portland Pirates this season, Samuelsson has 10 goals and 13 assists and currently sits fifth in team scoring.

Samuelsson, who was born in Arizona and, prior to suiting up for Portland had played in Sweden, the USHL and the WHL, has been Portland’s top forward since the end of January. As of December 31st, the rugged pivot had just five goals and 13 points in 28 games; since then, however, he has added another five goals and five assists in just 12 games. Seven of his 23 points have come in his last seven games. A strong finish to the AHL’s regular season could go a long way to pushing Samuelsson into Arizona’s opening-night lineup for the 2015-16 season.

4. (5) Brendan Perlini, LW, 7.5C
Drafted: 1st round, 12th overall, 2014

The Niagara IceDogs are streaking, and Brendan Perlini has lead the charge offensively. Injured for much of the first half of the OHL season, Perlini acclimated himself accordingly upon returning, putting up points in nearly all of the 26 games he has played for a total of 40. There have been just eight games this season in which Perlini has not scored a goal, and his 21 goals puts him second on the team in scoring, behind only Carter Verhaeghe (TOR), who has 24 and has played 28 more games.

Six of Perlini’s goals have been with the man advantage, while five have been game-winning goals. The 6’2, 212 pound winger’s goal-scoring rate is equal to that of Connor McDavid (2015), who has 25 in 30 games, and is amongst the league’s best.

5. (12) Christian Dvorak, LW, 7.5C
Drafted: 2nd round, 58th overall, 2014

The London Knights needed someone to step up this season with uncertainty over Max Domi’s status and a younger roster than in years past. That player has undoubtedly been American Christian Dvorak. Along with highly-skilled center Mitch Marner (2015), Dvorak has been giving OHL defenders fits all season, and is currently third in league scoring with 93 points in 50 games. Last season, Dvorak accumulated just 14 points in 33 games while earning limited ice time.

His 2014-15 campaign began impressively enough, scoring 13 points in his first 14 games, but since then he has set the league on fire. His point totals in November, December and January were 24, 25, and 28. It is fair to say that Dvorak has come into the spotlight in a big way.

6. (7) Tobias Rieder, RW, 7.0B
Acquired via trade with Edmonton Oilers, March 2013

It took German-born winger Tobias Rieder just nine games at the start of the season with Portland to earn a call to Arizona, and so far he hasn’t looked back. A strong and speedy two-way player, Rieder has looked comfortable on both the second and third line for the Coyotes throughout the season, playing in 44 games to date.

His best and most notable performance of the season came in a contest against the team that drafted him, the Edmonton Oilers, when Rieder scored a pair of shorthanded goals in quick succession. He is the tenth leading scorer amongst Coyotes skaters with eight goals and six assists.

7. (4) Lucas Lessio, LW, 7.5C
Drafted: 2nd round, 56th overall, 2011

Lessio’s drop to seventh is not a result of poor play on his part, but rather improved play and surprises from other Coyotes prospects. In fact, the recently-turned 22-year-old has been having another productive season at the pro level, despite having yet to find much offense at the NHL level.

The Maple, Ontario product was second on the Pirates in scoring last season with 54 points in 69 games, and played another 29 games for the team this year before being recalled to Arizona. In 17 games with the Coyotes, Lessio has scored just twice and added one assist, though he has not been without scoring opportunities.

8. (6) Laurent Dauphin, C, 7.5C
Drafted: 2nd round, 39th overall, 2013

Like Lessio, Dauphin’s drop in ranking is a product of the strong play of others. In fact, Dauphin, in his final season of junior eligibility, is enjoying his strongest season to date. With 55 points, he leads Chicoutimi in scoring despite playing 10 fewer games than most players on the team. His 23 goals is also two shy of his QMJHL career high, which was set in his rookie season of 2012-13.

A responsible two-way center, Dauphin is also a team-leading +3 on a team that has surrendered 24 more goals than it has scored.

9. (9) Ryan MacInnis, C, 7.5D
Drafted: 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2014

The son of NHL Hall-of-Fame defenseman Al MacInnis, Ryan is carving out his own path as a center with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. MacInnis’s offensive skill stood out on a rather poor Kitchener team last season, in which he accumulated 37 points in 66 games.

His progression as a player has been on-par with expectations. This season, through 50 games, MacInnis leads the Rangers in scoring with 47 points. His 16 goals matches last season’s mark, while he has already increased his assist total by ten. His linemate, Justin Bailey (BUF), was dealt to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the OHL trade deadline, but MacInnis has fared just fine in his absence, recording five points in his last four games.

10. (8) Mark Visentin, G, 7.0C
Drafted: 1st round, 27th overall, 2010

Injury has stalled the development of former Team Canada goaltender Mark Visentin. After two sub-par seasons with bad Portland Pirates teams, Visentin has yet to appear in a single game this season and was recently shut down for the season.

Visentin injured his ankle during Coyotes training camp which is all the more unfortunate since he likely would have seen time in Arizona throughout this season had he been healthy. Instead, his injury opened the door for Louis Domingue to get his shot. Visentin’s entry-level deal expires at the end of this season, signalling a possible end to his tenure with Arizona, though his draft pedigree and experience mean he will have other chances.

11. (NR) Jordan Martinook, C, 7.0C
Drafted: 2nd round, 58th overall, 2012

In his third season with Portland, Jordan Martinook has emerged as one of the team’s core players. The Brandon, Manitoba product has 29 points in 43 games for the Pirates, including a pair of shorthanded goals, and in his last seven games he has seven points. His impressive two-way game earned him a call-up to Arizona earlier this season, where he dressed for two games. He is by no means a high-end, offensively-skilled prospect, but can do a lot of things well and never takes a shift off.

12. (11) Jordan Szwarz, RW, 7.0C
Drafted: 4th round, 97th overall, 2009

One of the older prospects on the list, Szwarz stills qualifies as a prospect, but his time is running out. The 23-year-old played in 26 games for the Coyotes last season, but has been limited to just 26 games at the AHL level this season, where he has posted 11 points. With younger prospects like Lucas Lessio and Tobias Rieder earning ample ice time in Arizona, Szwarz has fallen a few spots on the organizational depth chart.

13. (17) Brendan Shinnimin, C, 7.0D
Signed as free agent, March 2012

An AHL All-Star and recent call-up to Arizona, Brendan Shinnimin is an offensively-gifted player, but a little undersized at 5’10 and 180 pounds. He was signed by the Coyotes following his final season of junior, in which he led the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring with 134 points for the Tri-City Americans. He has yet to come close to that level of production as a pro, but is finding his footing in the AHL where he has 25 points in 40 games. In nine games with Arizona, he has one assist.

14. (18) Louis Domingue, G, 7.0C
Drafted: 5th round, 138th overall, 2010

For the third straight season, Domingue has spent time in both the AHL and ECHL. His stint in the ECHL, with the Gwinnett Gladiators, lasted just two games however and he appeared comfortable at that level.

Domingue also made his first career NHL start in January. Playing against the Montreal Canadiens, Domingue allowed two early first period goals before earning a 3-2 win in front of a proud family. He was recently assigned to Portland, where he owns a 2.40 goals against average and .922 save percentage.

15. (13) Anton Karlsson, LW, 6.5C
Drafted: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2014

A grinding winger with some offensive ability, Karlsson has played in eight SHL games this season, the top league in Sweden. After starting the season with Skelleftea, where he played just six games, Karlsson recently returned to Frolunda, the program he played his junior hockey for last season. He is pointless in two games for Frolunda, but has also appeared in four games for the team’s under-20 team, scoring twice. He was also a solid bottom-six addition to Sweden for the World Juniors, collecting two assists in seven games.

16. (NR) Philip Samuelsson, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, December 2014

A defensemen with limited offensive upside, Samuelsson has been given a fresh start with Arizona. The second round pick in the 2009 draft played in just five NHL games with the Penguins organization over three-and-a-half seasons. Since being traded, he has already appeared in four games with the Coyotes, and is still with the team. He was a +16 in just 24 games for Portland before being recalled.

17. (NR) Dysin Mayo, D, 6.5D
Drafted: 5th round, 133rd overall, 2014

A smooth skater with a solid frame, Dysin Mayo has excelled with added expectations in Edmonton. The Oil Kings defenseman has 33 points in 47 games, and is just two points off of last season’s total. He is a big part of the reason the Oil Kings are back in a playoff position this season, despite the loss of several key players like Henrik Samuelsson and Curtis Lazar (OTT) and injuries to others such as Arizona seventh-round pick Edgars Kulda.

18. (NR) Michael Bunting, LW, 6.0C
Drafted: 4th round, 117th overall, 2014

An alternate captain for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Michael Bunting has 44 points in 40 games this season. He has 15 points in his last 12 games and continues to be one of the team’s top offensive options despite the Greyhounds loading up at the deadline, acquiring Justin Bailey (BUF) and Nick Ritchie (ANA).

19. (16) Tyler Gaudet, C, 6.0C
Signed as undrafted free agent

In his first season as a pro, defensively-responsible center Tyler Gaudet has already played in two NHL games with Arizona as an injury call-up. In 43 AHL games, Gaudet has 13 points. His ceiling is limited, but his size – 6’3 and 200 pounds – and work ethic might make him a strong fourth-line candidate for Arizona in the future.

20. (NR) Rhett Holland, D, 6.0D
Drafted: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2012

A big, bruising blueliner out of Calgary, Rhett Holland’s NCAA career has been hampered by injury, but his junior season has been one of relative health. In 24 games with Michigan State University, Holland has three points, including his first career goal. He projects as a bottom-pairing defenseman at best, who can contribute minutes to the penalty kill.

Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7