The Phoenix Coyotes have nine prospects competing in the NCAA this season. While two prospects are in their senior seasons, it is actually the underclassmen who are making a lot of noise.
Kevin Porter, LW
University of Michigan, sophomore
4th round, 119th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Porter made it rather clear that he was developing into a well-rounded player during the 2004-05 season (his first collegiate season) with a seamless transition. The stellar sophomore is making even more noise playing on Michigan’s go-to line, playing the majority of his time on the left wing with T.J Hensick (COL) at center and a host of different Wolverines playing the right side.
While he has been a driving force behind one the of most potent offenses in the league, Porter also spent some time as a member and captain of the Team USA’s 2006 U-20 World Junior Championship team. Playing in all seven games, Porter put up six points (2 goals, 4 assists).
Back in Ann Arbor full-time and avoiding the sophomore jinx, Porter currently leads Michigan with 14 goals. Combined with the rest of his offensive ability, Porter is currently tied for second in team scoring with 25 points. On top of that, he has not gone over two games without scoring during the entire 2005-06 season.
Chad Kolarik, C
University of Michigan, sophomore
7th round, 199th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
The sophomore forward has been known for his keen ability to bury the puck with a fiery blend of skill and zest. However, after a strong freshman campaign, the winger was plagued by inconsistent play out of the gates this season.
It was obvious he was off his game because he was taking his mind off the tasks at hand and not fulfilling his role as a sniper. There is really no doubt he can play at this level and effectively produce. It was just a matter of time until the Abington, Pennsylvania native got his house in order.
Kolarik and his game have come on strong as of late. He headed into the weekend with a five-game scoring streak. His 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) have catapulted him into a tie for second in team scoring with friend and fellow Coyotes prospect Kevin Porter.
John Zeiler, RW
Saint Lawrence University, senior
5th round, 132nd overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Led by a strong senior presence, and playing some very strong hockey tucked away in upstate New York, St. Lawrence has been on the national radar for most of the 2005-06 season. A big help on the offensive front, the Saints alternate captain is also a very consistent player who leads by example.
Heading into the 2005-06 season, Zeiler had always been labeled ‘Mr. Consistent’. All was well until he went down with a shoulder injury in an Oct. 7 contest against the Wisconsin Badgers. The sprain forced him to miss the following four games, which were the first games he has missed after playing 117 consecutive matches for the Saints. To his credit, he returned to action and scored eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) over the course of his first three games back. His production slowed down a bit after those weekends, but he still finds himself second in team scoring.
Though some see Zeiler playing second fiddle to senior linemate T.J. Trevelyan, the Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania native continues to be a heart and soul behind the Saints squad. Together with Trevelyan and fellow senior Mike Zbriger, St. Lawrence’s top line has produced nearly a third of the team’s production. If the trio continues to produce and continues to receive help on all fronts, you could quite possibly see Zeiler and the Saints making a huge push for an ECAC title and a deep post-season run.
William Engasser, F
Yale University, sophomore
9th round, 261st overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
For the second straight season, Engasser has been the anchor on the Bulldogs fourth line. The team is jammed with senior forwards, many of whom are playing on the team’s top lines. He’s not getting top six minutes and that translates into little point production. The centerman has seen action in 14 games, registering four points (2 goals, 2 assists) and six penalty minutes.
Pat Brosnihan, F
Yale University, freshman
7th round, 212th overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft
Brosnihan is in the middle of his first collegiate season and like Engasser, he’s been stuck in neutral on the team’s fourth line. Lining up at the right wing, he has Engasser as his center and usually junior forward Robert Burns on the left wing. He has seen action in 14 contests, registering a lone assist and 25 penalty minutes. Of those penalty minutes, Brosnihan picked up 17 of them when he let his emotions get the best of him in a 5-2 win over Brown back on Dec. 2.
Sean Sullivan, D
Boston University, junior
9th round, 272nd overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Playing on the hottest team in all of NCAA Division I hockey, Sean Sullivan has a lot to be proud of. Not only is the offense hitting on all cylinders, but BU’s defense has also been just as big a factor in their 9-1 run over the last ten games.
These days, Sullivan is patrolling the left defense paired with Kevin Schaeffer (NAS). Sullivan is a good skater and reads the game very well. He knows when to apply pressure and he knows when to lay off. He is competent in the offensive zone, but he’s still the classic stay-at-home defender he ever was. He’s not your highlight type of defenseman because his greatest skill is shutting down the opposition and playing a sound positional game in his own end. Without hesitation, he’s not only been a great asset for Jack Parker and the Terriers, but Sullivan is just about one of the best defenders in all of Hockey East.
Daniel Winnik, C
University of New Hampshire, junior
9th round, 265th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
After graduating the team’s two top scorers in Sean Collins and Preston Callander at the conclusion of the 2004-05 season, it was a given that Wildcats head coach Dick Umile was going to expect big things from his junior class this year.
Playing on the team’s top line with fellow Brett Hemingway (COL) and Jacob Micflikier has paid many dividends. While Winnik leads the team in scoring with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists), altogether, the junior line is accountable for 40 percent of New Hampshire’s output. For his superb effort early on, Winnik picked up Hockey East Player of the Month during November, but has yet to slow down. He still remains on pace to surpass his 2004-05 point total.
Following up his breakout season last year, Winnik has done everything to impress and show that he is one of the top power forwards in all of Hockey East. He is becoming a great positional player who uses his size and skating ability to make things happen. He works well down and in corners, however, he becomes very effective when he can get in close and begin to dominate the slot area. Add in a deft touch with the lumber, a nose for the back of net and it’s no wonder why he’s producing at this clip.
Jeff Pietrasiak, G
University of New Hampshire, senior
6th round, 186th overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft
During the 2004-05 season, it was fellow Wildcats freshman netminder Kevin Regan (BOS) who stole all the thunder between the pipes. However this time around, it is Pietrasiak who has seemed to regain his composure, as he is currently edging ahead of Regan in the stats column posting a 2.31 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, along with a 9-3-1 record.
Coach Umile has been alternating between Pietrasiak and Regan this season. And so far, it’s been quite the tug-of-war to watch. Pietrasiak has had his off nights and on others he’s been brilliant. Although in this case, good numbers aren’t going to be the only factor to save him in the long run. The team slumped for the latter part of January and Pietrasiak saw himself in a couple of ugly games. To his credit, he hasn’t let much distract him as he comes back strong again and again.
Blake Wheeler, F
University of Minnesota, freshman
1st round, 5th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft
When Hockey’s Future profiled the Robbinsdale, Minnesota native early on during the 2005-06 season, the Gophers, like Wheeler, were searching for their identity. Individually and as a group the team showed flashes of greatness, but other times the young squad left many scratching their heads wondering if they had enough moxie and guile to pull it through.
As for Wheeler, he’s had his quiet periods stats-wise, but for the most part he continues to make a lot of progress in his development. The power forward did miss a weekend series against Union and UMass-Lowell as a member of the Team USA’s 2006 U-20 World Junior Championship team. He played in all of Team USA’s contests, scoring two points (two goals) in seven games and finishing up as a +3.
Overall, he has added a lot of size thanks in part to a strong showing in the weight room during the past offseason. On the ice, he has shown to be good skater who possesses deceptive speed, and finds a higher gear when needed. There shouldn’t be a grave concern because of the lack of offensive output at the moment. He has simplified his approach as the season has progressed, impressing as an overall player.
Both the Gophers and Wheeler seem to have buckled down and are extremely focused for the present. They’re keeping an eye towards a deep postseason run.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.