Arizona Coyotes late round picks providing depth in the NCAA and Europe

By David Hahn
Zac Larraza - Arizona Coyotes

Photo: Arizona prospect Zac Larraza of the Denver Pioneers helped his team to a first-round sweep in the NCHC Tournament. (courtesy of Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

 

The Arizona Coyotes have typically drafted out of the junior ranks early in drafts, then used picks later in the draft to add depth. Notable NCAA prospects Connor Clifton, Hunter Fejes, Rhett Holland, and Zac Larraza will finish off their campaigns with playoff appearances. Meanwhile, Jared Fiegl closed out his season with a murmur and Jedd Soleway has at least one weekend of hockey left to develop.

European prospects Anton Karlsson and David Westlund both recently signed contract extensions to remain with their respective SHL teams, adding intrigue to their prospect status.

NCAA

Connor Clifton, D, Quinnipiac University
Fifth round, 133rd overall, 2013

Playing on Quinnipiac’s top defense pairing with senior Danny Federico, Connor Clifton has provided the Bobcats with a steadying presence. His offensive numbers are down from his freshman season, having logged only five assists in 35 games. However, Clifton has added muscle this season to become more of a well-rounded defenseman.

He has provided Quinnipiac forwards with quality breakout passes, while defending well off the rush. They hosted Union in a best-of-three ECAC Tournament Quarterfinal series over the weekend, where Clifton figures to log quality minutes.

Hunter Fejes, LW, Colorado College
Sixth round, 178th overall, 2012

Following a challenging sophomore season that saw him miss time with a knee injury and struggle with consistency, Hunter Fejes has resurrected his hockey career. After an offseason that saw him add 10 pounds, Fejes has become a more mature and refined forward. Playing in all 35 games, Fejes posted five goals and 14 assists, setting new career highs in assists and points.

Colorado College had a disappointing 6-26-3  regular season, but Fejes finished strong, registering an assist in four out of the last five games. The Tigers headed into NCHC playoff action this weekend, and will need Fejes to continue his recent run of play in order to achieve their first win of the season over North Dakota.

Jared Fiegl, C/LW, Cornell University
Seventh round, 191st overall, 2014

It was a freshman season to forget for Jared Fiegl, as the young forward struggled to produce offensively for Cornell. His lone point of the season was a goal that drew the Big Red into a 3-3 tie at Harvard. Fiegl proved to be a reliable bottom-six role player, leading Cornell in penalty minutes with 39.

Fiegl and the Big Red are both looking to the future, as their season recently came to a close after dropping consecutive playoff games to Union College. Cornell graduates three senior forwards, presumably opening up more icetime and opportunity to Fiegl to move up the depth chart.

Rhett Holland, D, Michigan State University
Fourth round, 102nd overall, 2012

Rhett Holland has been one of the most improved players for Michigan State this season. Following a shoulder injury that resulted in a medical redshirt designation, Holland has rounded into a physical, powerful defenseman for the Spartans. Not known for his offensive acumen, Holland has one goal and three assists in 34 games this year.

Holland played his best games during the Great Lakes Invitational tournament, resulting in the sophomore defenseman being named to the GLI All-Tournament team. The Spartans finish their season with a home-and-home against rival Michigan before heading into the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals.

Zac Larraza, LW, University of Denver
Seventh round, 196th overall, 2011

Scottsdale, Arizona native Zac Larraza has been a consistent role player during his NCAA career. Nearing the conclusion of his senior season, Larrazza suited up in 34 contests for the Pioneers, scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists. He led Denver in power play goals with six, with most of those coming in front of the net.

The Coyotes are facing a situation where they need to make a decision on whether or not to sign Larraza, and his final opportunity to impress will come during this weekend’s NCHC first round playoffs against Minnesota-Duluth.

Jedd Soleway, RW, University of Wisconsin
Seventh round, 193rd overall, 2013

Wisconsin is in the midst of the worst season in program history, amassing a 4-25-1 record. Sophomore forward Jedd Soleway has done his part stringing together small streaks of consistent, physical, bottom-six play. Soleway has played in all 34 games for the Badgers, contributing six goals, two assists, and racking up a team high 48 penalty minutes.

Wisconsin closes out their season at home hosting Ohio State, where Soleway will have two final opportunities to take sole possession of second place on Wisconsin in goal scoring.

Europe

Anton Karlsson, LW/RW, Frolunda
Third round, 87th overall, 2014

An intriguing prospect, Anton Karlsson has been on the move this year. After being selected by the Erie Otters in the CHL Import Draft, Karlsson turned down the Otters’ offer and returned to a professional contract with Skelleftea in the SHL. Just two months into the season, his contract was mutually terminated before he resurfaced back with his former club in Frolunda.

A solid bottom six forward, Karlsson’s feisty brand of hockey was on display for the Swedish WJC U-20 team, posting two assists in seven games. Karlsson recently signed a two year contract extension with Frolunda, increasing speculation over his future.

David Westlund, D, Brynas
Sixth round, 163rd overall, 2014

Paired with Nashville Predators 2001 draft pick Tomas Slovak, David Westlund has been the definition of a defensive defenseman for Brynas. Described as a “late-bloomer,” Westlund has appeared in 53 games in the SHL, logging two assists.

Growing up as a fan of Brynas and playing in their youth system, Westlund was happy to sign a two-year contract with the main club. Arizona will maintain his rights during this time, hoping that Westlund will continue to grow and develop his strong defensive game.

Arizona Coyotes Prospect of the Month

Brendan Perlini - Arizona Coyotes

While most of the attention has been on fellow Arizona Coyotes prospects Max Domi and Christian Dvorak in London, Brendan Perlini has been a major part of a resurgent Niagara IceDogs team. Niagara started the season without Perlini, who missed the first two months of the season after injuring his hand at the Coyotes training camp. They missed him dearly, starting off with an abysmal 2-13 record.

Niagara made a splash in the trade market in November, acquiring Joshua Ho-Sang (NYI) and Brandon Hope, a quality overage goaltender. Perlini returned to the IceDogs in December and showed the form that made him a first-round pick, amassing 13 points in six games. Perlini scored at a point-per-game pace in January, gaining momentum for the “pesky dogs.” However, February began a significant turn of fortune for Perlini and the IceDogs. In 12 games, Perlini posted six goals, 12 assists, two penalty minutes, and was a +6 for a team which went 9-3-0 for the month.

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