Coyotes 2007 draft preview

By Jeff Dahlia

Coyotes Top 10 Prospects

  1. Peter Mueller, C
  2. Martin Hanzal, C
  3. Matt Jones, D
  4. Keith Yandle, D
  5. Alexei Kaigorodov, C
  6. Blake Wheeler, RW
  7. Kevin Porter, C
  8. Enver Lisin, RW
  9. David LeNeveu, G
  10. Bill Thomas, RW

Team Needs

With new General Manager Don Maloney running the team, one would expect him to strip the team down in order to retool the roster. There is too much dependency on older players and not enough youth and moxie to keep the team competitive.

Along with head coach Wayne Gretzky, Maloney will be looking to bring in skilled offensive players to generate more scoring, something the team severely lacked last season. This move could have the two of them taking a long look at the youth to help add some punch come next season because it is anticipated that there will be reduced veteran presence on the team for the 2007-08 season.

Maloney helped kick start the youth movement for the New York Rangers a going a couple years back, so the same should be expected here. Heading into the draft, the Coyotes emphasis in the first round will be on skilled forwards, who can generate offense in order to help supplement the anticipated offensive firepower of the future.

Organizational Strengths

Once a short-list full of marginal talent, today there are a lot of other notables worth recognition in the Coyotes system. This has happened by way of trades and better selection of prospects in the later rounds of the last few drafts.

The organization is still very heavy with a range of young capable defensemen. Matt Jones should be able to gain a full-time role with the club, while Keith Yandle, Logan Stephenson and Brendan Bell will get honest chances in training camp this fall. Phoenix also has blueliners Sean Sullivan, Chris Summers, Jonas Ahnelov and Jordan Bendfeld developing in the distance.

Phoenix is stacked up the middle with a wide range of prospects. If Alexei Kaigorodov gets back in the States and starts over fresh with the Coyotes, he has an honest chance to start the season in the NHL. Peter Mueller also seems to poised to earn a spot with the club for the 2007-08 season while Martin Hanzal is a step or two away from landing in Phoenix full time. Alex Leavitt and Daniel Winnik should be the two stronger prospects down in the AHL, while Kevin Porter and Benn Ferriero are other impressive pivots playing in the NCAA.

Organization Weaknesses

The Coyotes most pressing kink in the armor has to be their substandard development system. With an inability to consistently win and to develop players, the franchise has strained relations with their last three affiliates. Even with an increase of talent being injected to the system over the past few seasons, the returns are not substantial enough. No one questions head coach Pat Conacher’s loyalty and service, however it appears the franchise needs to explore new horizons in this area. 

The franchise is extremely bare at left wing. Daniel Carcillo appears to be the only prospect that has an honest chance to see the NHL this season. Behind Carcillo is Randall Gelech, who should sooner or later grind out at least a cup of coffee in the show.

With the organization more than likely walking away from unrestricted free agent Curtis Joseph, that would leave Mikael Tellqvist as the incumbent netminder. He’ll have the advantage early on unless Maloney makes a move in the off-season to shore up some competition. David LeNeveu and Josh Tordjman are notable options coming out of the AHL, but both of them are unproven. They will have a chance to make things interesting. The franchise did not sign Pier-Olivier Pelletier at the deadline and their only other goalie prospect is Brett Bennett, who is virtually untested at the collegiate level.

Draft Tendencies

The Coyotes continue to draft heavy out of North America. With 42 total picks over the last five drafts, 74 percent or 31 prospects were taken from the Western Hemisphere.* The breakdown is as follows:

  • WHL – 29 percent or 9 picks
  • USHS – 19 percent or 6 picks
  • NCAA – 16 percent or 5 picks
  • US NTDP – 13 percent or 4 picks
  • OHL – 6 percent or 2 picks
  • USHL – 6 percent or 2 picks
  • QMJHL – 6 percent or 2 picks
  • OTHER – 3 percent or 1 pick

Fifty-three percent or 16 prospects taken have been U.S.-born players, with the greater New England area being selected from extensively. The other 46 percent or 14 eligible prospects come north of the 49th parallel. 

The franchise has been reluctant to select a lot of prospects out of the OHL, QMJHL, and USHL. Over the last five drafts, the franchise has only selected a total of six players between the three leagues. They have not selected a player out of the OHL since 2002 when they took Ben Eager and Marcus Smith.

On the European front, only 26 percent or 11 of a total of 42 selections have come out of Europe.** The breakdown is as follows:

  • CZECH – 27 percent or 3 picks
  • RSL – 27 percent or 3 picks
  • SEL – 18 percent or 2 picks
  • SVK – 9 percent or 1 pick
  • DEL – 9 percent or 1 pick
  • SWISS – 9 percent or 1 pick

The Coyotes selected their first prospect out of Scandinavia (Jonas Ahnelov SWE) last draft in some three years, while they still haven’t drafted a player out of Finland since the 2000 draft when they took Sami Venalainen from Tappara Tampere.
 
*- Ladislav Kouba was born and raised in the  Czech Republic, though he was playing in the WHL during his draft year.

**- Liam Lindstrom was born in Canada, but left to Sweden where he was raised for the majority of his life. He was playing in Sweden when he was drafted. He was counted as Swedish prospect and national due to his dual citizenship.

Hockey’s Future staffs mock draft result:  James vanRiemsdyk, LW – USNTDP and Brett MacLean, LW, Oshawa – OHL

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.