Having used their first-round pick to select a defensemen in each of the past three drafts, General Manager Don Maloney and his management team switched things up a bit this year by taking a forward. They did however stay the course in later rounds and elected to continue to build upon their strong defensive structure by grabbing four defensemen out of their eight total picks.
The club also continued to show a strong liking of two-way wingers using all three of their forward picks on players who skate on the wing; further adding to what has become a deep position in the prospect pool.
Much like the case in recent years, the Coyotes drew heavily from the Canadian major junior leagues. This year, four of the eight players selected came from teams in the CHL while another came out of the AJHL. Maloney did however go all over the map, taking one player out of Finland, one from the Czech Republic, and an American high-schooler from Anchorage, Alaska.
The Coyotes also used this year's draft to welcome a familiar face back to the organization. Zbynek Michalek, a defenseman who spent five years with Phoenix was brought back as the big name in a trade that sent prospects Harrison Ruopp, Marc Cheverie, and a third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ranked as the 75th North American skater by Central Scouting, Henrik Samuelsson might have been a little off the radar in terms of his pre-draft ranking, but he was likely on the Coyotes radar all along.
The son of former NHL defenseman and Phoenix assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, Henrik fits the bill as exactly the type of player the Coyotes have utilized in becoming one of the West's top teams over the past three seasons. A big, powerful winger with some impressive physical attributes, the 18-year-old is very much in the midst of developing his skill-set, but the tools are in place for him to become a force as a power forward on the wing.
Samuelsson began the 2011-12 season playing under his father with Modo in the Swedish Elite League but after 15 games, both father and son thought a move to the CHL would be best. Ending up with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL, Samuelsson quickly established himself as an impact player, totaling 23 points in 28 regular season games. It was during the club's playoff run however that his stock really began to rise. With 14 points in 17 playoff games, followed by a strong performance in the Memorial Cup, Samuelsson began to be talked about as a first-round talent.
"It helped me out a lot. I was playing well during playoffs too, but definitely the Memorial Cup was a big stage," Samuelsson said shortly after hearing his name called. "There were a lot of scouts there so I thought I had a good performance and that helped my stock rise."
Although having played such few games in junior might be a red flag to some, Samuelsson's size and strength is already at the professional level. While his four suspensions in his shortened season will certainly require him to harness his play a little, it is that physicality that really jumps out. On top of his physical presence, Samuelsson has a high hockey IQ and possesses some surprisingly soft hands and a deft scoring touch.
Despite having a strong, straight-line stride, his quickness is a bit of a question mark at the moment, but with so many similar players making an impact in the NHL, it hardly figures to be a detractor down the road.
Admitting he needs to improve his speed, Samuelsson surely made a good impression on Coyotes fans when asked which NHL player he would like to emulate the most. His answer: Coyotes captain Shane Doan. "He's a great role model, Samuelsson said. "I think I just need to get faster and I can play that game."
Jordan Martinook, C/LW – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
2nd round, 58th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 209 lbs
It is not often that you see a guy coming off a 40-goal season in junior slip to the second round of the NHL Draft. Like Samuelsson, Jordan Martinook came into the draft as someone who was probably not rated as high as he should have been. A 1992 birthdate, Martinook's age had more to with his low ranking than his ability, but it was that goal-scoring ability that caught the eye of the Coyotes who went off the board to draft him in the second round.
After starting his junior career in the AJHL, Martinook spent the past two seasons with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. After an underwhelming first season, Martinook posted some impressive numbers in 2011-12 playing alongside the likes of Brendan Gallagher (MTL) and Marek Tvrdon (DET). His 40 goals were one off Gallagher for the team lead and his 64 points were good enough for third in team scoring.
At 6'0 and 209 pounds, the 19-year-old Martinook is a solidly built, versatile forward who can line up as a center or play the wing. Although the goal-scoring prowess he showed this year may not translate to the professional level, it was a glimpse of the ability in which he possesses. A sturdy player who likes to play physical, Martinook can score goals in a variety of ways and certainly fits the mould of a Don Maloney and Dave Tippett type of player.
After taking forwards with their first two picks, the Coyotes went back to their strengths and added a solid blueliner to their impressive group of defensive prospects. James Melindy, a steady two-way defender from the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL and a former team-mate of top prospect Brandon Gormley was pegged as the team's third-round choice at 88th overall.
In his second season in Moncton, Melindy became the Wildcats best and most relied upon defenseman, particularly when the aforementioned Gormley was dealt after 26 games. In 61 games played, the 18-year-old finished as Moncton's leading-scorer among defensemen with nine goals and 27 points, and logged a ton of minutes playing in all situations.
In Melindy, the Coyoyes are getting a player whom one QMJHL scout described as being "the whole package." A rangy blueliner at 6'2, Melindy is a good skater with good puck skills and an adept overall hockey sense.
Coming off a season in which he was the go-to defender on a rebuilding team, Melindy gained a great deal of confidence in his own ability, and now that he is the property of an NHL team, he will be even more motivated to continue his fine progression.
Rhett Holland, D – Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
4th round, 102nd overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 212 lbs
With his fourth-round pick, GM Don Maloney made no mistake in the type of player he was looking for. Having earlier traded away a rugged defenseman from the 2011 draft in Harrison Ruopp, Maloney found a very similar player. A draft prospect out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Rhett Holland is the epitome of a defensive defenseman.
A punishing physical presence, Holland racked up 223 penalty minutes this year, but has all the tools of a reliable blueliner. The 18-year-old plays with his head, relying on excellent positioning as well as closing his gaps and utilizing an active stick. He is a decent skater who makes a good breakout pass.
Headed to Michigan State in the fall, Holland figures to develop into a hard-nosed, shut-down defender during his collegiate career, and will certainly be an experienced commodity once his time in East Lansing comes to an end.
In the fifth round, the Coyotes selected their first European player at the 2012 draft when they took Finnish defenseman Niklas Tikkinen with the 148th overall pick.
A converted forward, Tikkinen is smallish, effortless skating defenseman who is at his best in transition thanks to his speed and puck skills. He is very much an offensive rearguard possessing the vision and passing of a dangerous power-play quarterback.
Tikkinen put his offensive skills on display with Blues Jr. in Finland, registering eight goals and 23 points 39 games. He also competed for his country at the World U-18 Championhips where he collected two assists.
Not drafted for his defensive and physical play, Tikkinen is purely an offensive blueliner at this point and was considered to be one of the best skaters in this year's draft. He will look to move up to Espoo's senior club where he will certainly need to rely on that skating against the much bigger and stronger competition.
Samuel "Hunter" Fejes, LW – Shattuck St. Mary's (Minn HS)
Sixth round, 178th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 190 lbs
After selecting a defenseman with their previous three picks, the Coyotes grabbed their third winger of the draft by taking 1994 birthdate Samuel Fejes with their sixth-round pick.
Fejes, whose given name is Samuel but goes by Hunter, is a left-winger out of the esteemed hockey program at Shattuck St. Mary's. He will likely be pegged as a project pick due to his status as a high school player and because of how late he was selected, but there is plenty of potential in the Alaskan-born winger. The 18-year-old was the leading goal-scorer at Shattuck this year with 38 goals and was the second leading point-getter with 78 in 55 games played.
Signed on to play at Colorado College, Fejes is said to be a slick offensive player with some nice one-on-one skill. Although considered to still be quite raw, Fejes possesses good outside speed and a willingness to drive to the net. His potential as a power forward projects him to be the type of winger that is becoming very common in the Phoenix prospect pool.
Mark Langhamer, G – Pardubice (Czech)
Seventh round, 184th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 181 lbs
A member of the Pardubice program dating back to 2008, Mark Langhamer spent all of the 2011-12 season with their U-20 team where he appeared in 33 games. Ranked as the fifth-best European goaltender by Central Scouting, Langhamer was a busy netminder this year, playing in 51 total games split between his club team and with the Czech National Team.
An averaged-sized goalie at 6'1 and 181 pounds, Langhamer is very athletic in the crease, possessing quick reflexes and good lateral movement. He also has a quick glove and is comfortable with traffic in front of him.
Still just 17, Langhamer joins a fairly thin list of goaltending prospects in the Phoenix system and will certainly be an intriguing player to keep an eye on as he develops overseas.
Justin Hache, D – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Seventh round, 208th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 184 lbs
With their final pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, the Coyotes took a player who recently enjoyed some great team success. Fresh off winning the Memorial Cup with his junior team in Shawinigan, Justin Hache slipped in the draft largely due to playing behind the likes of fellow Phoenix prospect Brandon Gormley and Montreal prospect Morgan Ellis; both of whom were added during the season to help bolster the Cataractes blue line.
A reliable, two-way defender during his two year stint with Shawinigan, Hache can be counted on to make a good first pass and play a steady, physical game in his own zone.
The 18-year-old was a part of a mid-season trade and will play next year with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Despite leaving the Memorial Cup champs, the opportunity should be a good one for Hache as he now figures to take on a much greater role with a weaker team. He will be given the chance to open up his game with the hope that he can demonstrate his ability as more of a two-way defenseman.