Coyotes AHL prospects update

By Jeff Dahlia

As the calendar turns on 2005-06, the San Antonio Rampage are in for yet another long, make that short, season. The Rampage are 11-21-0-1 in 33 games with a .348 winning percentage. Their 23 points are second to last in the AHL, only one point ahead of the Albany River Rats.

The defense and goaltending have been somewhat steady, but the Rampage continue to be plagued by a lack of skilled goal scorers up front. Scoring a league-low 57 goals, San Antonio is by far the most offensively challenged team this year.

It is becoming apparent that regardless of where the Phoenix Coyotes anchor their AHL affiliate, the inability to dress a winning team at this level has been one the franchise’s biggest obstacles.

Forwards

The Rampage offense is anemic. The same holds true for the Coyotes forward prospects individually. Second-year pro Randall Gelech leads the Coyotes prospects with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 32 games played. While his numbers aren’t much to boast about, Gelech has been around the boards and in the corners. He is growing into a good defensive forward.

Martin Podlesak ranks second in prospect scoring with eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in 13 games, even though he has been out of the line-up since November 5, 2005, as a result of another concussion. The injury-prone center has only played sparingly over the last three seasons.

After ending the 2004-05 season on a tear in the ECHL, Frank Lukes has had a rather quiet campaign this year in San Antonio. He was able to put up five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 22 games played, before he was assigned to the Laredo Bucks of the Central Hockey League earlier this month. As options for the smaller talented winger continue to diminish, it appears that Lukes is at his ceiling in North America.

There have been two bigger disappointments so far season. The first would be Jakub Koreis. While the former fist-rounder adds the traits of a strong third or fourth line centerman, he has done little else to help in other areas. He is strong on the puck and is good killing penalties, but he continually shown to lack the ability to produce points. After competing in a total of 30 games, he has only chipped in a lone assist. He is currently -11 and has racked up 45 penalty minutes to date.

In his first pro season, Lance Monych is still trying to carve out his identity. In 24 games played, he is pointless with 14 penalty minutes and is a -2. He had a stint with Laredo in the Central Hockey League, but has since joined the team at the start of December.

In an attempt to find some results and chemistry, Phoenix has made many moves in San Antonio to bring some support and help bolster the roster. While the majority of those transactions brought the Rampage career minor league veteran players, one saw the Coyotes acquire the rights to prospect Tim Jackman.

Jackman is third overall in prospect scoring with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists). His 84 penalty minutes are the second among all prospects and rank second overall on the team in 27 games played. However, he is currently on a call-up with Phoenix.

Huge centerman Kiel McLeod who had one assist in 28 was recently traded to the Philadelphia Flyers organization for veteran Eric Chouinard.

Defense

While the Coyotes have a lot of defensemen stocked in cupboard in San Antonio, only Matt Jones seems to be exceeding expectations. After making a strong impression with the club during the preseason, Jones has been shifting between Rampage and the Coyotes. The ultra intense rearguard out of Downers Grove, Illinois has displayed his ability to skate and function in this new game, while being able to match it with an increased level of tenacity. Even though he is currently on the Coyotes NHL roster, he has posted seven points (0 goals, 7 assists) in 28 games played for the Rampage, while only managing to come away with a -4 and 22 penalty minutes.

While Matt Spiller continues to be steady leader for the group, he’s had quite the time making adjustments to the new style and tempo of the game. Given his size and good skating ability, Spiller has not had a problem delivering his signature in your face style of game in the past. However, with the increased scrutiny over obstruction and the need to open the game up, he’s been searching for the right balance. His six points (2 goals, 4 assists) are second to Jones, but his –16 is second on the team, and his 89 penalty minutes lead the team.

Joe Callahan has made quite the return from last year after his -35 ranked dead last in the AHL during the 2004-05 season. So far, he is a -4 through 33 games played with a lone assist and 36 penalty minutes. While his improved plus/minus is a good indication he continues to gain momentum at this level, he’s still not out of the woods just yet.

Goaltending

Early on this season, the Rampage were backstopped by career minor pro goalies due to injuries at the NHL level. Coyotes goalie Brain Boucher spent some time with the squad on a conditioning assignment. David LeNeveu, who has been dubbed as the Coyotes goalie of the future, has spent the majority of the season with Phoenix, backing up Curtis Joseph. While in the NHL, he saw action nine games going 2-5 with 3.20 goals against average and a .885 save percentage.

As of last week, LeNeveu has joined the Rampage, swapping roster spots with Boucher. The Fernie, B.C., native has already played in five games for San Antonio earning a 2-3 record with a 2.66 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

LeNeveu clearly has a golden opportunity to show what he has taken from his stint in the big leagues. He is going to have to settle in rather quickly and get into a get rhythm in order to help stabilize a team still searching for its identity.

Kevin Wey contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.