Coyotes rookie review 2003-04

By George Bachul






157







 

 

The Phoenix Coyotes are a young team in
transition. They have good skill on the
top two lines and a good core of young defensemen in their top 6. With any young team, the development of
prospects is key to the long-term success of the
franchise. In 2003-04 the Phoenix
Coyotes broke seven new players into the NHL to varying degrees of
success. Here is a review of the seven
rookies that took to the ice for the Coyotes this season.

 

Goran Bezina, D

 

Goran Bezina was called up for a brief audition
in March after it became evident that the post season wasn’t in the cards for
the Phoenix Coyotes. He had been playing
defense for most of the season for affiliate Springfield Falcons of the AHL when
he was briefly moved to the wing. After
a few solid outings, Bezina was called up to the Coyotes only to be put on the
back end. The 24-year-old only averaged
five minutes of ice per game and wasn’t an impact either good or bad. Bezina will continue to provide defensive
depth for the organization.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Goran Bezina

D

3

0

0

0

0

-1

22

5:17

0

 

 

Jason Jaspers, C

 

Jason Jaspers received an emergency call up
on March 10th with Mike Rupp sidelined due to a shoulder
injury. The 23-year-old has some
offensive skill and decent speed but his size limits his effectiveness. Jaspers in three games played his energy
style but was unable to generate anything significant for the Coyotes. As an upcoming RFA, the Coyote organization
will have to consider whether or not to qualify Jaspers.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Jason Jaspers

C

3

0

0

0

0

-1

2

11:23

3

 

 

Mike Stutzel, LW

 

Mike Stutzel was
signed as a free agent from the
University of Northern Michigan in the NCAA. He was recalled
for an audition with the Phoenix Coyotes in mid March replacing Goran Bezina
who was in turn sent back down to the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. The 25-year-old had a challenging transition
to the pro game and did not make any impact over his nine games with the
Coyotes. Stutzel is another restricted
free agent that Coyotes management will have to make a decision on this
off-season.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Mike Stutzel

LW

9

0

0

0

0

-4

0

5:47

3

 

 

Eric Westrum, C

 

Eric Westrum had
a successful end to the 2003-04 season with the
Phoenix Coyotes. His strong play lifted
him from the Springfield Falcons and he made the most of his opportunity in
Phoenix. Westrum brought a strong two way game and
earned a spot as a regular penalty killer and in his 15 game call-up
turned in a performance solid enough to be given some power play time. Although statistically Westrum only provided
a goal and an assist in 15 games his all out effort and willingness to go to
the net to generate scoring chances earned him a spot on the team. Westrum played so well to close the season he
was named to the U.S. World Championship squad.
If Westrum is committed to a solid off-season training regimen he will give
himself a strong chance of being on the opening day roster of the Coyotes for
2004-05.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Eric Westrum

C

15

1

1

2

0.13

-3

20

16:00

29

 

 

Matthew Spiller, D

 

In his first NHL season, the 21-year-old Matthew
Spiller earned a spot on the Coyotes opening night roster and played in 26
games with the Coyotes before being reassigned to
Springfield on Dec. 30.
The 6-foot-5, 233-pound Spiller was recalled from
Springfield on Jan. 18 and
played in 13 games with the Coyotes before being reassigned to
Springfield on Feb.
18. He was called up again on March 10th
and finished the season with the Coyotes.
The 21-year-old is a tall, physical defenseman that relies on his size
and strength in the defensive zone. At
this early stage the Coyotes did not rely on Spiller to provide any
offense. Spiller still has some
development to go through before he can be considered a solid NHLer. His confidence with the puck and his
decisions away from the puck in the defensive zone still need work. He will compete for a top 6 position with the
Coyotes at training camp in 2004-05.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Matthew Spiller

D

51

0

0

0

0

-11

54

10:41

22

 

 

Fredrik Sjostrom,
RW

 

After Krys Kolanos got off
to a very slow start in the 2003-04 season it was Fredrik Sjostrom who was
the benefactor with his promotion to the Phoenix Coyotes on
November 26th,
2003
. Sjostrom brought the game that the Coyotes
envisioned when they gave up an additional second round pick to move up in the
2001 draft from 14th to 11th to select him. The 20-year-old is a skilled two-way forward
that has great top end speed and very good first step quickness. He has good hands and as he develops at the
NHL level his offensive numbers will increase.
Sjostrom provided solid two-way play in December averaging around seven
minutes a game in ice time. Sjostrom’s
play earned him more ice time including some power play minutes ending the
season averaging
11:35 minutes per game. Although he only scored 13 points in his 57
games in
Phoenix, it was evident that his speed and skill point to a future top 6 forward
position with the club.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Fredrik Sjostrom

RW

57

7

6

13

0.23

-7

7

11:35

73

 

 

Jeff Taffe, C

 

Jeff Taffe began the year
with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.
He started out strong in the AHL and was the Phoenix Coyotes first
choice to be called up when Jan Hrdina went down with injury on November
17. The 23-year-old had an up and down
season as a rookie, the highlight was a solid performance in February where he
scored 9 of his 18 points. He needs to
again work on his conditioning and his frame where it was evident he had lost
some steam over the last 17 games of the season. He has to continue his hard work and utilize
his good size more to be an effective NHLer.
Taffe has very good tools including solid puck skills but they did go underutilized
this season. He will come to camp
penciled in for a starting position in 2004-05 and look to improve in his sophomore
season.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Jeff Taffe

C

59

8

10

18

0.31

-8

20

11:01

67

 

 

The Phoenix Coyotes are a young team whose
management has been very vocal about developing players from within the
organization. With three prospects
earning significant time on the parent club and four more receiving auditions,
the Coyote franchise is staying true to its word.