Defenseman and goaltending duo lead group of CHL prospects for Phoenix Coyotes

By Andrew Sykes
Photo: Brandon Gormley has been among the top defensemen in the CHL this season. (Photo courtesy of www.moncton-wildcats.com)

The Coyotes have a total of seven prospects playing in the CHL; three in the OHL and two players in both the QMJHL and the WHL. Four of the seven players competed in the recent Subway Super Series and two goaltenders taken in the 2010 draft have enjoyed standout seasons thus far.


OHL

Mark Visentin, G, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired 1st round (27th overall) in 2010
August 7th, 1992. Ht: 6’1, Wt: 186 lbs.

The second goaltender taken in the 2010 draft, Visentin’s first-round selection came as a surprise to some, but the 18-year-old has proven his worth with a stellar performance through the first two months of the season.

Expected to be one of the leaders on and off the ice for a rising young team, Visentin has been rock solid in goal for the IceDogs. In 17 appearances, Visentin has posted a record of 10-4-3 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average. He currently ranks in the top 10 of all three of those categories among OHL net-minders.

A quick look at Visentin’s numbers this year compared to last and you can see what playing for a much improved team will do. Last season, he played well but didn’t really have the numbers to show for. Fast forward to the current season and Visentin’s play and his numbers are vastly better, due large-in-part to the overall performance of the team.

After taking part in team Canada’s development camp this past August, and then being selected for the OHL roster in the Subway Super Series, Visentin has given himself a chance at one of the spots for Canada’s world junior roster. Although he will certainly be in tough to make the squad, Visentin’s strong play is sure to have left an imprint as the tournament draws closer.

Philip Lane, RW, Brampton Battalion
Acquired 2nd round (52nd overall) in 2010
May 29th, 1992. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 194 lbs.

A second-round pick in 2010, Lane’s second season with Brampton in the OHL has gotten off to a rather disappointing start. After a steady, but sometimes underwhelming rookie season, Lane was expected to be an offensive catalyst for the Battalion who are very much in a rebuilding mode.

Having missed eight of the team’s 24 games due to injury and a two-game suspension, Lane is yet to get going offensively and has tallied six goals and added just two assists in 16 games.

The 18-year-old power forward will need to pick up his play in order to reach and surpass the 18 goals he scored as a rookie. At 6’2 and 194 pounds, Lane is still growing into his body but he will need to assert himself more if he hopes to become the physically dominant player that both the Battalion and the Coyotes think he can be.

Jordan Szwarz, RW, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired 4th round (97th overall) in 2009
May 14th, 1991. Ht: 5’10, Wt: 189 lbs.

Now in his fourth junior season, the feisty Szwarz has developed into one of the best all-around players in the OHL. Coming off a season in which he reached career highs in both goals and points, Szwarz was named captain of a very deep Saginaw team who appear to be primed for a run at the league championship. In 27 games, Szwarz has eight goals and 14 assists and has continued to play a hardworking, physical game which has led to 44 penalty minutes.

As a team captain, Szwarz is expected to not only produce offensively but also play a very strong defensive game which is exactly what the 19-year-old has done. His plus-17 leads the team and ranks near the top of the league.

Despite being small in stature, Szwarz is a strong and tenacious player who will do whatever it takes for his team and teammates even if it means taking on much larger opponents. His tireless work ethic and fiery demeanor has earned Szwarz a great deal of respect around the league and he was rewarded with a roster spot for one of the OHL’s games in the Subway Super Series.

QMJHL

Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton Wildcats
Acquired 1st round (13th overall) in 2010
February 18th, 1992. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 190 lbs.

It might have been somewhat of a long shot for Brandon Gormley to make the Phoenix Coyotes out of training camp this year, but it was anything but a sure thing that he would be returned to his junior team in Moncton. When he was eventually sent back to junior, the Wildcats were given the chance to have one of the best defensemen in the CHL for at least one more season.

The club’s first-round pick in 2010, Gormley has played as advertised this year. With nine goals and 14 assists in 20 games, Gormley ranks third in scoring among defensemen with 23 points, but the 18-year-old brings much more to the table than just points. He is the club’s undisputed leader providing stability and leadership from the back-end. His ability to contribute both offensively and in his own zone makes him one of most polished defensive prospects in the game.

As a player who can put up points and play a shut down role, Gormley has a very strong chance at making team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Having previously won gold with Canada at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Gormley will hope he gets the chance at another gold in 2011 on what is perhaps the biggest stage for any junior hockey player.

Louis Domingue, G, Quebec Remparts
Acquired 5th round (138th overall) in 2010
March 6th, 1992. Ht: 6’3, Wt: 183 lbs.

Having never previously been a starting goalie in his junior career, Domingue has taken the reigns this year and ran with them. As the number one guy between the pipes for one of the best teams in the CHL, Domingue has posted solid numbers helping backstop the Quebec Remparts to first place in the QMJHL’s East division.

In 24 games, Domingue has a sparkling 17-5-1 record and is second in the league in the win column, but his 2.58 GAA and .888 save percentage leaves him with some room for improvement.

At 6’3, the 18-year-old is a large presence in net and is at his best when he remembers to stay square to the shooter and use his size to his advantage. While Domingue is destined to be among the league leaders in wins, he will hope to lower his goals against and raise his save percentage in the second half of the season.

WHL

="HFlink" href="/prospects/justin_weller">Justin Weller, D, Red Deer Rebels
Acquired 4th round (105th overall) in 2009
July 26th, 1991. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 205 lbs.

A fourth-round pick in 2009, Weller is a defensive defenseman who keeps his game simple and doesn’t take many risks. Rarely will you see him play out of character which first and foremost is to take care of his own end.

Not known for his offensive ability, Weller has just three goals and one assist through 27 games. On a Red Deer team that is loaded with offensive talent, Weller is counted on to be the most responsible defender on the team, and play a physical shut-down role against the opposition’s top line.

With Red Deer in a position to challenge for the WHL championship, Weller will continue to see a lot of important minutes the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Evan Bloodoff, LW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired 6th round (157th overall) in 2009
November 21st, 1990. Ht: 5’11, Wt: 183 lbs.

After a torn ACL limited Bloodoff to just nine games a year ago, the 20-year-old winger has taken some time to find his legs in his final junior season. While certainly not noted for his offensive prowess, Bloodoff is well off the pace of his career year in 2008 in which he scored 15 goals and 27 points. After 25 games this year, Bloodoff has three goals and seven assists for the Rockets who have struggled to score goals.

Despite their lack of offense, Kelowna is one of the stingiest teams to play against in the league and the grinding, two-way game of Bloodoff is a big part of that success. Look for the veteran to improve upon his offensive numbers as the season goes on, but regardless if he is scoring or not, you can be sure that Bloodoff will be playing with speed and energy every time he steps on the ice.