Lauzon, Ryan – C – Mississippi Sea wolves (ECHL)/Springfield Falcons (AHL)
(ECHL) 58 GP, 7 G, 12 A, 19 P, 12 PIM
(AHL) 2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM
Lauzon ran into injury problems at the beginning of the year but picked up his play throughout the rest of the year. Lauzon has showed that he deserves to be with the Falcons but with the dual ownership with Tampa Bay, Lauzon ends up the odd man out. He will stay with the Sea Wolves unless injuries persist on the Falcons.
Leach, Jay – D – Mississippi Sea Wolves (ECHL)
70 GP, 3 G, 13 A, 16 P, 116 PIM
Leach’s physical play has improved and he has taken less careless penalties then in years before. His ability to play on the power play and penalty kill may give him a spot on the Falcons. The main weakness in Leach’s game is his speed.
Lewerstrom, Erik – D – Farjestads BK (Sweden)
39 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 51 PIM
Lewerstrom had yet another disappointing year in Sweden. His career will stay in Europe. He has too many weaknesses at this point in his career to attempt to play with the Coyotes or even in North America. He will be a career European player.
Litvinenko, Alexei – D – Magnitogorsk (Russia)
22 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, 33 PIM
As with Lewerstrom, Litvinenko will be a career Eurpoean player. His overall game is weak especially in the areas of skating and offense. Injury problems have been another damper on Litvinenko career. Being 6’5” is an advantage and he has to learn how to use his body to his advantage.
Loven, Fredrik – C – Tingsryd AIF (Sweden)
32 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, 22 PIM
Loven had a decent year with Tingsryd picking up his play. His offense improved greatly over the offseason and it showed scoring career high five goals this year. Being an 8th round pick in 1995 with Winnipeg, Loven career will be in Sweden in the elite league.
Lukes, Frantisek – LW – St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
63 GP, 27 G, 37 A, 64 P, 50 PIM
Lukes, a late round draft pick in 2001, was a huge surprise this year with St. Michael’s. His speed and hands have been said as amazing for a late round pick. Coming over to North America, Lukes showed no problems in the change in rink size and style of play. Lukes will spend next year with St. Michael’s with a chance to play with the Falcons in 2003.
Lundstrom, Per-Anton – D – AIK Solna (Sweden)
49 GP, 6 G, 2 A, 8 P, 104 PIM
Lundstrom has developed a strong game in the Swedish Elite League. His physical presence is felt on the blue line although it is inconsistent at times. His ability to join a 3 on 2 or 2 on 1 rush has picked up along with the mental part of his game. But it this situation it is “day late, dollar short” and Lundstrom will stay with the Swedish Elite League for the rest of his career.
O’Leary, Pat – C – Minnesota Gophers (NCAA)
40 GP, 4 G, 2 A, 6 P, 18 PIM
O’Leary, who was a part of the Championship Golden Gophers, wasn’t a big part of there championship team. He was a fourth line right wing/center at times and didn’t receive a lot of ice time down the stretch into the tournament. His body strength is somewhat for concern along with the physical part of the game. His future with the Coyotes in uncertain at this time.
Podelsak, Martin – C – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
34 GP, 14 G, 20 A, 34 P, 33 PIM
Podlesak was off to a roll this year with Lethbridge and had the numbers to back it up, until he received a concussion that pretty much finished his season off except for two games at the end of the season. His upside and potential is something for Coyotes fans to be excited about. He has great speed to go along with good hands. His physical game is progressing but isn’t yet at the level of where it needs to be to be successful in higher leagues. Podlesak has a contract but yet hasn’t begun since he played with Lethbridge this year. His destination next year is unknown.
Polarski, Scott – RW – Colorado College (NCAA)
38 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 P, 28 PIM
Polarski had a decent freshman year with Colorado College. He has a lot of room for improvement in his game but one thing that stuck or like a swollen thumb was his ability to pass the puck. His soft hands and great anticipation of the puck helped him earn the 12 assists he did this year. He will stay for his sophomore year with Colorado College next year.
Radivojevic, Branko – RW – Springfield Falcons (AHL)/Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
(AHL) 62 GP, 18 G, 21 A, 39 P, 64 PIM
(NHL) 13 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 P, 12 PIM
Radivojevic started off the year slow but picked up his play. By the middle of the season he collected his first professional hat trick, player of the week honors in the AHL, and his first recall by the Phoenix Coyotes and he didn’t go unnoticed by Bob Francis and his coaching staff. Radivojevic gave Landon Wilson a seat in the press box while he played in his place the last 13 games of the season. One main weakness of Radivojevic is his strength to hold his position in front of the net. His potential is great and he should be a full-time player in the NHL next year with the Coyotes.
Ralph, Brad – C – Mississippi Sea Wolves (ECHL)
16 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, 12 PIM
Ralph continued his injury prone seasons with the Coyotes only playing in 16 games with the Mississippi Sea Wolves this year. His health is the biggest question of his game right now and if could find a way to be healthy might crack the Falcons lineup. He is in the 2nd of his 3-year rookie contract right now.
Samoilov, Igor – D – Cherepovets (Russia)
37 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P, 14 PIM
Samoilov had a sub-par year in Cherepovets. Being a stay-at-home defensemen, Samoilov will not score a lot of points. The main focus of his game is to grind and wear down the opposing forwards and to clear the front of the net. Any added points are considered a bonus for him and his team. He will stay in Russia next year.
Sjostrom, Fredrik – RW – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
58 GP, 19 G, 31 A, 50 P, 51 PIM
Sjostrom in his first year in North America got off to a slow start but started adapting to the size of the ice and style of play and seemed to pick up his play. One thing I have noticed in his style of play is that he doesn’t mind physical play on the ice and that has helped him. His balance is outstanding but he needs to learn to become a 2-way player. A concussion after the World Junior Championships put a damper on his season. Sjostrom will have a shot with the Coyotes in two years.
Spiller, Matthew – D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
72 GP, 8 G, 23 A, 31 P, 168 PIM
Spiller joined the concussion brigade who consists of WHL players this year (Spiller, Sjostrom, Podlesak). His offensive awareness on the blue line is ones to the like of Lidstrom or Blake. His play is a mix of physical at times and run-and-gun which he can keep up with when joining the rush. Spiller will be a huge part in the Coyotes future.
Taffe, Jeff – C – Minnesota Gophers (NCAA)
43 GP, 34 G, 24 A, 58 P, 86 PIM
Taffe, who was 2nd in the nation in goals, will be in the Coyotes organization next year. Taffe is a well-rounded hockey player. His puck handling and speed is good at times. His biggest weakness is when he gets into a physical play he can get overaggressive and take undisciplined penalties. He needs to improve his strength on the puck and he will be successful in the NHL. Whether he plays with the Falcons or the Coyotes next year is to be seen.
Tatarinov, Alexander – RW – Yaroslavl (Russia)/Khabarovk (Russia)
(Yaroslavl) 24 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 P, 8 PIM
(Khabarovk) 9 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM
Tatarinov wasn’t getting any playing time on the 4th line with Yaroslavl so he was loaned to Khabarovk where he got more playing time and didn’t take advantage of it. He didn’t record a point in the nine games with Khabarovk. In order to be successful if he comes over to North America, he will have to his physical game. He is a defensive forward with little speed which is costly at times when backchecking.
Venalainen, Sami – RW – Tappara Tampere (Finland)
56 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 P, 24 PIM
Venalainen , an 8th round pick in the 2000 draft, had a decent year. After sustaining a season-ending injury last year. He scored career numbers in assists and points with eight and 13 respectively. He will stay in Finland at least the next two years.
Westrum, Erik – C – Springfield Falcons (AHL)
73 GP, 13 G, 29 A, 42 P, 116 PIM
Westrum played well in his first professional year with the Falcons. His soft hands and great skating stride give him a lot to work on and develop for when he is ready for the NHL. One cause for concern is his inability at times to become undisciplined. I see at least two more years at Springfield before he becomes a potential full-time NHL player.
Zulianello, Colin – G – Mississippi Sea Wolves (ECHL)/Springfield Falcons (AHL)
(ECHL) 33 GP, 3.16 GAA, 18 W, 11 L, 98 GA
(AHL) 3 GP, 3.34 GAA, 2 L, 9 GA
Zuilanello was a undrafted free-agent signing last summer and had a great year with Mississippi leading the Sea Wolves through the playoffs. His great play during the season earned himself a couple recalls with the Falcons. He is low on the Coyotes depth chart behind DesRochers, Blackburn, Belanger, and Bierk, but Zuilanello has a huge upside and great potential and could leapfrog the depth chart with a good year next year.