Arizona Coyotes high-end junior players excelling early in 2015-16

By David Hahn
Kyle Capobianco - Sudbury Wolves

Photo: In his third season with the Sudbury Wolves, Arizona Coyotes prospect Kyle Capobianco continues to improve his decision-making and lead a young squad (courtesy of Terry Wilson/CHL Images)

 

 

The Arizona Coyotes had a number of prospects who racked up accolades through the first quarter of the 2015-16 season, including quite a few who are playing in the CHL this year. Three Coyotes prospects are among the top 15 scorers in the OHL, another one is in the top-five in the QMJHL, and the team’s WHL contingent has provided valuable leadership.

OHL

Kyle Capobianco, D, Sudbury Wolves
Acquired: 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2015

Kyle Capobianco persevered through a difficult 2014-15 campaign, where the Sudbury Wolves won just 12 games in the worst season in franchise history. With a number of new faces, the Wolves are playing much more competitively and Capobianco is a huge reason why. An underrated defender, the Mississauga, ON native has been brilliant defensively this year, improving his plus/minus significantly after a dismal -49 rating last year. His improved game play resulted in a nomination to play for Team OHL at the Canada Russia Series. Despite having just two goals, Capobianco is shooting far more often, resulting in a number of quality scoring chances as the Wolves try to continue their climb out of the cellar.

Christian Dvorak, C, London Knights
Acquired: 2nd round, 58th overall, 2014

Through the first months of the season, Christian Dvorak has made the OHL look like child’s play. Often overpowering opponents, the newly-minted London Knights captain has been dominant with and without the puck. Dvorak could make a case why the AHL needs to reconsider their age and eligibility restrictions, as he looks a step or two ahead this year. With 16 goals and 24 assists through his first 19 games, Dvorak is among a trio of Knights at the top of the OHL’s scoring leaderboard. In a 9-2 victory over Guelph, Dvorak scored five goals, joining Corey Perry and four others for the most goals in a single game in franchise history.

Christian Fischer, RW, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2015

Often times when a player makes a change in career direction, the spotlight shines that much brighter. In Christian Fischer’s case, he has not only handled his first OHL season with class, but has been a dominant player at times for the Windsor Spitfires. Fischer is a powerful two-way right wing that has an exciting blend of skating ability and offensive prowess. He is scoring in bunches too, having several games with multiple points – including a hat-trick and assist in a surprising 6-4 win over the first place Erie Otters.

Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2014

The Kitchener Rangers are among the hottest teams in the OHL with the help of Ryan MacInnis. The Rangers appeared to be in need of scoring depth heading into the year, and were relying on MacInnis to provide extra offense this year. He has delivered, too, with 17 goals and 14 assists in 22 games, totals that have him on pace to surpass his previous career-high of 62 points. Luckily for MacInnis, he now has a new winger to play with, as Toronto Maple Leafs phenom Jeremy Bracco committed to the team after a stint with Boston College. As a quality two-way center that is known to be difficult to play against, the additional offense MacInnis has provided the Rangers with this year is certainly a big reason why the team is ascending the standings.

Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 1st round, 12th overall, 2014

Brendan Perlini got off to a hot start this year, and is attempting to garner the attention of Hockey Canada to make the Under-20 team ahead of the upcoming World Junior Championships. Perlini, a 6’3”, 205-pound power-forward has been a bulldog in the OHL this year alongside of Graham Knott (CHI) and OHL-veteran Anthony DiFruscia. With nine goals and nine assists in his first 20 games, Perlini has been a dangerous scorer in most games, creating offense off the cycle. Perlini was recently named to the Canada Russia series roster for the OHL, which will be a great opportunity for him to shine on a bigger stage.

Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 1st round, 3rd overall, 2015

The Arizona Coyotes took a long and honest look at Dylan Strome, rostering him in most preseason games during a lengthy evaluation process. Eventually, Strome was returned to the OHL where he assumes the role of Erie Otters captain in the wake of Connor McDavid’s graduation to Edmonton. Strome got off to a slow start, but along with 2016 NHL Draft eligible Alex DeBrincat, the duo has helped the Otters keep pace in the highly-competitive Midwest Division. Strome’s vision and creative two-way game have elevated not only DeBrincat, but a number of teammates and resulted in him being named as the Pioneer Energy OHL Player of the Week for the first week in November. On the international stage, Strome figures to be a representative of Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championship tournament, which would be the first time that the Mississauga, ON native has worn the red and white.

QMJHL

Conor Garland, RW, Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 5th round, 123rd overall, 2015

You could forgive Conor Garland if his point totals didn’t look the same this year, especially considering his former linemate Ivan Barbashev (STL) graduated to the AHL this year. Back in Moncton for what most believe will be a final year in junior, Conor Garland is up to his old tricks. The Scituate, Massachusetts native currently has 45 points in just 20 games, again finding himself at the top of the QMJHL’s scoring charts. Not many opponents have been able to slow down his assault on the scoring leaderboards, but Garland narrowly escaped injury on a dangerous hit by Timo Meier (SJ), who was given a one-game suspension. Garland will be fine, and has plenty of time to rack up the points as he tries to outdo his 129-point season from last year.

WHL

Adin Hill, G, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 3rd round, 76th overall, 2015

In his second year in the WHL, Adin Hill is quickly proving that the climb from unknown rookie to NHL draft pick was for good reason. Portland’s offense took a hit with the graduations of a number of high-end forwards, but the team has bonded early on and Adin Hill is a big reason why the team picked up right where they left off. Hill rattled off five straight wins in October and was named as the Vaughn WHL Goaltender of the Month. Portland is pursuing their first Memorial Cup berth since 1998, and will attempt to make it there on the sizeable shoulders of Adin Hill. The 19 year-old Calgary, AB native was also selected to play for the WHL in the Canada Russia series, held in Kelowna and Kamloops, B.C.

Dysin Mayo, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 5th round, 133rd overall, 2014

Any time a defenseman surpasses the 100-point plateau, it’s recognition of that player’s prowess in moving the puck and making plays at both ends of the rink. That’s exactly what Dysin Mayo accomplished recently, as the puck-moving defender picked up his 100th career point in the WHL. Despite not having a goal to his record this year, Mayo has been a brilliant performer in his fourth year in the league. The team has a number of younger defenseman, but Mayo has taken a few under his wing and has been logging first-line minutes playing in all situations. His contributions were recognized recently, as Mayo participated for Team WHL in the Canada Russia series.

Nick Merkley, C, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2015

The month of October was a pretty good one for Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley. After performing well at the team’s prospect camp, and earning a longer stint in training camp, Nick Merkley was rewarded for his efforts with a three-year entry-level contract by the Coyotes. Riding a surge of confidence, Merkley is among the Rockets’ leading scorers. He was recognized for those efforts recently, and was named as an alternate captain in the Canada Russia series. Merkley carried the momentum into November, kicking off the month with four goals and four assists in three games, resulting in the budding young forward being named as the WHL’s Player of the Week.

Arizona Coyotes Top Performing Non-Junior Prospects: October

Arizona’s overhaul to their top-six forward group continues this year, as two youngsters have the team competing better than ever. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair linked up last year on the Canadian World Junior team and carried that chemistry over to the NHL this year. Beyond those two, Klas Dahlbeck is one of the most underrated defenseman in the NHL this year, as the young Swede has quietly gone about his business defensively and has chipped in with a pair of goals.

The Coyotes boast a strong group of hard-working prospects off to decent starts with their new AHL affiliate in Springfield. Among them, Lucas Lessio is currently sixth in team scoring with three goals and four assists in his first 14 games. First year pro Laurent Dauphin has five points, and players like Henrik Samuelsson, Jordan Szwarz, and Tyler Gaudet have all made contributions.

Arizona Coyotes Prospect of the Month: October

Maxim Letunov - Arizona Coyotes

What Max Domi is doing in the NHL is absolutely noteworthy, and while he is one of the best rookies thus far in the NHL, Maxim Letunov is one of the most exciting freshmen in the NCAA and this month’s Prospect of the Month. The former Boston University commit, a 6’4”, 170-pound center, is getting all the icetime he can handle for the University of Connecticut. In October, Letunov racked up five goals and six assists during a five game point streak, including three assists during a huge 5-2 victory over Boston University, the very team he spurned in favor of the Huskies. To date, Letunov is among the freshmen leaders in scoring with 14 points and is tied for the lead in scoring on the power play with six points on the man advantage.