Coyotes junior prospects season review

By Jeff Dahlia






junreview05-2


USHL

Blake Wheeler, RW – Green Bay Gamblers – Drafted 2004, 1st round, 5th overall

On June 26, 2004, the Coyotes selected Blake Wheeler with their first pick, fifth overall in the
2004 draft. On June 27th, his life under a microscope began. This season he
played his first and only season with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, as he prepares for
NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota.

Most expected him to bring his scoring magic to this Tier-1 midwestern junior league. After turning in a 100-point season in 2003-04 as a junior in high school, it’s easy to understand why the expectations were so high.
Wheeler did score at a good clip, just not as often as everyone anticipated. Even though he made the
USHL All-Star game, led the Gamblers in goals, assists and overall points, many are still left scratching their heads wondering why he couldn’t cash in big during the 2004-05 season.

“I think the big change about this league is, there’s a really different style of play than high school, and probably even college, Wheeler
told Hockey’s Future last month. “The style of game is probably more like a pro style game with the
two-line passing, there are different rules, so it’s been a little different, takes a lot getting used to, but
it’s been a lot of fun, it’s been a great transition.”

Going to the USHL proved to be good for Wheeler on two fronts. First of all, it was a lot more competitive and organized
league than what he was in, and set his expectations for college. While it was not a lights out year,
there was still a lot accomplished on his part, with 47 points in 58 games.

Wheeler’s true test comes next fall when he joins a stacked Minnesota program. Hopefully having Gamblers head coach Mazzolini, a former NCAA coach,
has given him an idea of what is in store for next year.

“Oh yeah, he’s been a great coach,” Wheeler said of Mazzolini. “Obviously he knows what he’s doing; he’s been around the block. Coach has been a great guy to have on your side, because he knows what he’s talking about and really helps you out and further your game.”


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Green Bay

USHL

58

19

28

47

43

-7


QMJHL

Olivier Latendresse, C
– Val-d’Or Foreurs – Signed as free agent September 2004

Olivier Latendresse was one of the most consistent and polished players for Val d’Or this past
season, taking the momentum he earned from working out with the Coyotes last
summer in the 2nd Annual Pacific Division Rookie Tournament and earning a contract.

The pesky in your face center played well at both ends of the ice for the
Foreurs, even though his plus/minus looks otherwise. Latendresse ranked in the top quarter of the league in goals, assists and overall scoring. He ranked
tied for 20th in power play goals (12) and ranked 20th in faceoffs taken (1193). He had a very
respectable 56.40 winning percentage in faceoffs, which was also towards the tops in the league.

Latendresse will more than likely return to the “Q” to finish out his junior career with the Foreurs.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Val d’Or

QMJHL

68

27

47

74

34

-13

Kevin Cormier, LW – Halifax Mooseheads – Drafted 2004, 6th Round, 168th overall

Kevin Cormier had a superb regular season with the Halifax Mooseheads. Still deep into the playoffs, Cormier finds himself currently in the doghouse with the League Disciplinary Prefect for an elbowing incident that broke the jaw of a Rouyn-Noranda Huskies player. After sweeping the Huskies out of the semifinal round of the QMJHL playoffs,
the Mooseheads await their next challenge which could consist of Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic or the hard-charging Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Cormier will be serving a three-game suspension, whoever the next opponent
may be.

Cormier established himself as an elite bruiser in the Q. Even though he tallied some points this season, he is has marginal offensive upside. His 235 penalty minutes
were good for second best in the league. By all accounts, he packed a lot of power and rarely lost his bouts.
Cormier showed to be very competent in certain aspects of his game, but he needs to add another element or two,
along with consistency.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Halifax

QMJHL

60

2

5

7

235

-3




WHL

Aaron Gagnon, C
– Seattle Thunderbirds – Drafted 2004, 8th Round, 240th overall

Aaron Gagnon put up another solid season for the Thunderbirds. In a changed atmosphere
from last season, in which the T-Birds finished dead last in the U.S. Division,
the players responded as a team and turned in a first place season.

The overachieving eighth round selection was one of head coach Rob Sumner’s go-to guys this
season, and the consistency showed at both ends of the ice.

“He is not the biggest guy, but it is never a factor in our games because he wins his battles,” Sumner said about Gagnon earlier in the season.
“I don’t see him as a smaller player. I’ve never seen his size hinder his ability to play. He’s always first on pucks, he’s so strong on his skates and he is such a good skater. He wins battles both offensively and defensively, so I wouldn’t say size is an issue with him.”

Not only did Gagnon play well at even strength but he remained one of the team’s best players on
special teams. He was also summarized as one the team’s best penalty killers and his ten
power play goals led the team. He went on to lead the team in points, goals and tied for first in assists. He also ranked within the top percentile of players in the WHL in overall points, goals, game-winning-goals and plus/minus.

Gagnon also went on to be one of the team leaders in the Seattle post-season push that ended in a second round series loss to Kelowna. Rest assured, he will be back with the T-Birds for the 2005-06 season.
He may wear the captain’s “C” next season.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Seattle

WHL

72

31

34

65

29

28

Ryan Gibbons, RW – Seattle Thunderbirds – Drafted 2003, 6th Round, 178th overall

Ryan Gibbons is a player that you can send into a lot of tense situations and more times
than not, he’ll get you the results you were looking for. Gibbons’ high tempo, ultra physical game
led him to yet another successful year. He’s not a big point-getter, but he has consistently increased his point total for the fourth consecutive year. He doesn’t have some of the flair and precision in his game, but
simply showed that he gets the job done.

It’s hard to tell a player that plays with so much tenacity to slow it down,
but Gibbons still needs to find a good balance and not run himself down too early in his shifts and games. He looked more comfortable as the year
progressed. With the style of game he likes to play, Gibbons needs to work on fine-tuning his skating, building his stamina and adding muscle mass.

Gibbons could turn out to be another late round surprise for the Coyotes,
following in the footsteps of former WHLer and fellow prospect Randall Gelech. He needs to continue to work hard in the off-season and come prepared to challenge for a roster spot.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Seattle

WHL

67

15

16

31

112

17

Logan Stephenson, D – Tri-City Americans – Drafted 2004, 2nd round, 35th overall

After taking a short detour due to injury, when Logan Stephenson got going with the Americans, he showed opposition that he was back on track and as good as new. He had another good season, showing an increase in his offensive production. Stephenson was still able to show growth,
playing along side the likes of two more offensive defensemen in Clayton Stoner and Shawn Belle.

Stephenson continues to make himself a lot appealing to the Coyotes. He is very consistent in his own zone, stifling opposition. He
talks a lot with his partner, is very calm under pressure and understands his responsibilities.

The 2005-06 season should be his last with Tri-City. Stephenson will more than likely be one of head coach Dean Nachbaur’s lead players on a very young defense and team.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Tri-City

WHL

59

6

9

15

86

-13

Lance Monych, RW – Brandon Wheat Kings – Drafted 2002, 4th round, 97th overall

Lance Monych is the only other Coyotes prospect whose junior team remains in the playoffs. Monych put in a solid year from start to finish. In the past, he would start off hot, then have his production drop off significantly.
It was not the storyline this year.

Even though Brandon is loaded with talent this season, Monych has held his own. He saw
time in all situations and played exceptionally well on the Wheat Kings special teams. He was one of Brandon’s top five producers this season and even ranked in the top percentile of all WHL players in overall points, goals scored, assists,
power play goals and assists on the power play.

Monych could have played with Idaho in the ECHL, however, it seems the sniper wasn’t thrilled with the notion.
Even though he went back to Brandon and the WHL as an overager, it is safe to say that he got a vivid picture of just how hard he needs
work at next summer’s camps in order to stick with the Grizzlies in the AHL.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Brandon

WHL

64

30

36

66

88

9

Tyler Redenbach, C – Swift Current /Lethbridge – Drafted 2003, 3rd Round, 77th overall

Tyler Redenbach went into the 2004-05 season with the thought that it was going to a bigger learning experience than anything else. Coming off a hot 2003-04 season where he led the WHL in scoring, Redenbach headed into this past season showing patience because of the
team’s youth and bigger change at the helm.

As the team was adjusting to their new head coach Dean Chynoweth, Redenbach the captain took charge early on. While he stated he was going to be working on his defense to round his game dating back to the summer, it didn’t take long before Redenbach ascended back to the top of the
score sheet for the Broncos. Playoff teams had their eye on the fourth year
set-up specialist and at the trading deadline, Redenbach was dealt to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Redenbach continued to show his ability to use his vision, anticipation and understanding of the game to become a very distinguished
set-up man. He might be a piece of the puzzle that Phoenix needs to resurrect their AHL team. There is no reason why the Coyotes wouldn’t give him a
solid look come this summer.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

SC/Lethbridge

WHL

65

19

44

63

63

-3

Roman Tomanek, LW – Calgary Hitmen – Drafted 2004, 4th round, 103rd overall

For Roman Tomanek, it seemed the decision to bring him over to the WHL and get him situated with the style, tempo and physical play of the game
in North America was the right move. The impressionable winger needed a change of scenery and Calgary was the right place for him. He seemed to be on the right track, even though his first month was a mixed bag.

While the entire season was not what many expected from the high-powered Hitmen, Tomanek was on the outside looking in from early on. An early November shoulder injury precluded him from seeing action for majority of the season. Not having a chance to really get anything going this year, he is too raw to be pushed up to the AHL and the ECHL
might not be the ideal atmosphere for him.


Season

Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

2004-05

Calgary

WHL

19

2

4

6

12

0

Brad Deuster contributed to this
article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of
the editorial staff.