Phoenix Coyotes have small group of prospects at NCAA and European levels

By Andrew Sykes
Photo: Forward Chris Brown (right) plays a physical style of game, as demonstrated in the photo above. Brown has set career highs this season with 29 points in 37 games. (Photo

Steve Kotvis/Southcreek Global/Zuma Press/Icon SMI)


With most of their prospects playing at the pro level or in the Canadian Hockey League, the Phoenix Coyotes are thin in terms of prospects playing in the NCAA or in Europe.

Finnish winger Alexander Ruuttu and University of Michigan power-forward Chris Brown highlight the Coyotes list of five players playing overseas and in the NCAA .

NCAA

Chris Brown, LW, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Acquired 2nd round, 36th overall, 2009


In his junior year at the University of Michigan, Brown continues to be a consistent performer for the Wolverines. A second-round pick in 2009, Brown has established a new career high in points with 29 in 37 games, and has been a punishing presence up front all season. At 6’2 and over 200 pounds, Brown has used that size to play a typical power-forward game and has amassed a team-high 66 penalty minutes for the nation’s second-ranked team. Not an overly skilled player, Brown is playing exactly the way the Phoenix brass will expect him to play when he begins his professional career.


Zac Larraza, LW, Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
Acquired 7th round, 196th overall, 2011

A rare local product from Scottsdale, Arizona, Larraza was the club’s final pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and has played well in his first collegiate season at the University of Denver. Although his ice-time has been limited, Larraza has found ways to contribute for the 10th ranked Pioneers. His biggest contribution came in the semi-finals of the WCHA tournament when he scored the overtime winning goal against Minnesota-Duluth. Denver went on to lose to North Dakota in the championship but the OT winner was certainly a memorable moment for the freshman


Mike Lee, G, St. Cloud State Huskies (WCHA)
Acquired 3rd round, 91st overall, 2009

A junior at St. Cloud State, Lee’s season was interrupted by a hip surgery that limited him to 16 games. Despite the injury, the 21-year-old was very solid for the Huskies and posted the best numbers of his career to date. An 8-6-2 record to go along with a 2.23 goals against average and a .930 save percentage, Lee’s numbers were up considerably from his previous two seasons when he struggled with his consistency. Behind the likes of Mark Visentin and Louis Domingue on the Coyotes list of goaltending prospects, Lee’s performance this year has given Phoenix a very nice trio of young goaltenders going forward.


Europe

Alexander Ruuttu, RW, Jokerit Helsinki (SM-liiga)
Acquired 2nd round, 51st overall, 2011

A surprise second-round draft pick of the Coyotes last year, Ruuttu has delivered an impressive pro season in Finland. The 19-year-old right-winger has played with Jokerit’s top team and their junior team where he proved to be a dominant player racking up 16 points in 13 games for the U-20 squad. Currently on loan to Kiekko-Vantaa of the Finnish second division, Ruuttu’s ability as a two-way player with good speed and developing offensive skills projects him as a perfect fit for Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett’s defensive style in the future.

Jonas Ahnelov, D, Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik (SEL)
Acquired 3rd round, 88th overall, 2006

After three years in the American Hockey League, Ahnelov decided to head back to his native Sweden where he had a solid season with Modo in the Swedish Elite League. The 24-year-old defenseman has fit right in on a blue line that features the former NHL players such as Thomas Pock, Freddy Meyer, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, helping the Swedish side to their best season in four years. Although his time as a Phoenix Coyotes prospect is up in the air, it looks as if Ahnelov will be able to carve out a lengthy career for himself in Sweden.

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