For the third consecutive year, the Phoenix Coyotes drafted in the top 10 picks in 2008. The Coyotes now have two players from the 2008 draft who are making the most of their opportunities in the NHL, while a couple more are finding their way at the AHL level.
After putting up 73 points as an OHL rookie during his draft year, Mikkel Boedker made the Phoenix Coyotes roster right out of training camp in 2008. Playing on a young Coyotes team that featured other rookies such as Peter Mueller and Daniel Winnik, Boedker finished the season with 28 points in 78 games.
Boedker spent the next two seasons bouncing around between the NHL and the AHL, getting accustomed to the pro game and learning how to play at both ends of the ice. In 2011-12, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett tried Boedker in both a bottom-six grinding role and a top-six scoring role. It was clear that Boedker could be counted on defensively, but he also showed flashes of his offensive potential.
This season Boedker has been the most dangerous forward on the Coyotes roster. He leads all Coyotes in points with 18 and he leads the forwards in time on ice per game, playing nearly 19 minutes per game. Boedker is a constant threat every time on the ice, and he consistently creates scoring opportunities. The one knock on him is his reluctance to shoot the puck from prime scoring areas.
Viktor Tikhonov, RW, Severstal Cherepovets (Russian Superleague) – 1st round, 28th overall
NHL Games Played: 61
Like Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov made the Phoenix Coyotes roster right after being drafted. In his rookie season with the Coyotes, Tikhonov proved that he could be counted on defensively and was one of the best penalty killers on a young Coyotes team. Although the offense was not there, he finished the season with 16 points in 61 games and was an important member of the team. The next season, the Coyotes sent Tikhonov to the AHL to hone his offensive skills, but eventually Tikhonov left for Russia to play for Severstal Cherepovets in 2009-10. After coming back to play another AHL season in 2010-11, Tikhonov signed with St. Petersburg SKA in 2011 and has been a solid contributor with them since.
Although he has shown that he can score on the big ice surface in Russia, Tikhonov has struggled to adapt to the smaller ice in North America. He seems to be content playing overseas and it looks as though the chances of him having an NHL career are dwindling.
Jared Staal, RW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL) – 2nd round, 49th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Although he comes from a family that has produced three NHL players, Jared Staal is the odd-man out. It looks more and more like Staal was taken because of his last name and not because of his abilities on the ice. After failing to impress the Coyotes staff in a couple seasons in the AHL, he was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a fifth round pick. With a career high of only six points in an AHL season, all signs point to Staal being the only one of the four brothers who will not make an impact at the NHL level.
After a successful WHL career, Michael Stone continued to progress at the AHL level. After just one season of full-time AHL duty in 2010-11, Stone was called up for 13 regular season games for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011-12. He impressed management enough to get into a couple playoff games in the Coyotes run to the Western Conference Finals. He came into this season battling for the seventh defenseman spot and after a few injuries to the Coyotes blue line it looks like Stone has locked up the sixth spot for the time being.
He is a big bodied defenseman who is not afraid to throw his weight around. While he sometimes gets caught out of position, he seems to get better with each passing game. His foot speed has improved leaps and bounds since his first professional season and he possesses a booming slap shot from the point. It looks like Stone will be a staple on the Coyotes blue line for the foreseeable future.
A big, lanky defenseman, Mathieu Brodeur is beginning to have some success at the AHL level for the Portland Pirates. In addition to a career-high 16 points through 49 games so far this season, Brodeur has also effectively played a shutdown role on the Pirates blue line.
Although his offensive upside is pretty limited, Brodeur is a decent skater for his size. He is a long shot to make the NHL, but as he continues to develop his all-around game, his impressive size will give him an advantage that will make him stand out.
Colin Long, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – 4th round, 99th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
After putting up a combined 191 points in his final two WHL seasons, Colin Long struggled to find that offense at the professional level. A concussion in his rookie season in the AHL was the beginning of the end for Long. After playing almost all of 2010-11 in the ECHL and finding some success there, his concussion issues returned the next season. He eventually signed in the DEL with Dusseldorf to play the 2012-13 season.
Brett Hextall, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL) – 6th round, 159th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
While he was never an offensive powerhouse, Brett Hextall is most successful when he is getting under the skin of the other team. He loves to play physical and has been an effective grinder for the Portland Pirates this season. With 12 points, Hextall is just three points away from surpassing his point total from last season.
Hextall continues to get better, and although it looks like he will never be an offensive threat, Hextall could make the NHL based on his work ethic and his ability to get in the heads of opposing players.
Tim Billingsley, D, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL) – 7th round, 189th overall
NHL Game Played: 0
After playing an overage season for the Niagara IceDogs, Tim Billingsley played one season for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees in the CHL during the 2011-12 season. After playing just 15 games, Billingsley left the team to go back to school at Carleton University and has since played at the CIS level.