Coyotes Top 20 Prospects, Fall 2008

By Jeff Dahlia

The Coyotes head into the 2008-09 season screaming with young talent. Though they lost a couple of prospects to free agency or graduation this calendar year, they reloaded at this year’s draft. The NHL roster will be young and full of rookies. The club is stocked with willing and able young game breakers who are sure to make their presence felt.

Phoenix’s top 10 is talented and deep. The franchise has focused on players who can operate a fast-paced puck-possessive attack.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Kyle Turris
2. Mikkel Boedker
3. Keith Yandle
4. Viktor Tikhonov
5. Kevin Porter
6. Enver Lisin
7. Brett MacLean
8. Chris Summers
9. Nick Ross
10. Al Montoya
11. Chad Kolarik
12. Jonas Ahnelov
13. Josh Tordjman
14. Joel Gistedt
15. Alex Bourret
16. Benn Ferriero
17. Logan Stephenson
18. Sean Sullivan
19. Vladimir Ruzicka
20. Jared Staal

Key: Current Rank (Previous Rank), Name, Position
How Acquired, Age, Height, Weight

1. (1) Kyle Turris, C

1st round, 3rd  – 2007, 19, 6’2, 170

For obvious reasons, Turris has a stranglehold on the Coyotes top spot. After a one and done season with the University of Wisconsin, Turris’ sole focus remains on the Coyotes and the NHL. The talented centerman brings an equal amount of speed and skill. He is currently slotted to be the team’s second line centerman, where he’ll be matched with skill and size. Expect Turris to be in the hunt for the Calder Trophy right out of the gates.

2. (NR) Mikkel Boedker, LW

1st round, 8th – 2008, 18, 5’11, 195

The Coyotes first overall pick from this past summer’s draft looks poised to make the jump to the NHL. Last year, Boedker tore up the OHL and progressively got better as the season wore on. Many thought the Dane was best forward in the Memorial Cup. Phoenix is banking on the winger’s swift transition and is anxious for him to bring that mentality to the desert. Like Turris, he can operate with speed and precision. He also has the size and strength to match up in the NHL.

3. (4) Keith Yandle, D

4th Round, 105th – 2005, 21, 6’2, 195

After getting his initial test run last season, seeing action in 43 games for the Coyotes, Yandle should certainly be ready for full-time duty this fall. It was one of the reasons Phoenix was confident in moving Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton in the Olli Jokinen trade to make room for him. The gamble on this puck-moving offensive-minded blueliner at the 2005 draft looks to be about ready to pay off as he’s going to be an important piece on the back end for Phoenix. Yandle has a booming shot, great skating ability, and a lot of offensive pop. His defensive end coverage was a bit of a concern last season, but expect him to be squared away this season.

4. (NR) Viktor Tikhonov, C

1st Round, 28th – 2008, 20, 6’2, 187

Tikhonov was passed over at previous drafts, but the late bloomer was in demand at this year’s draft and the Coyotes made sure they got their man. The sizable and sturdy forward was not only named the top forward at the 2008 WJC, but he was named one of the most improved forwards in the entire RSL last season. Already signed to an entry-level contract, Tikhonov is yet another looking to compete in the NHL. His size and skill package fits the pro ranks, which will give him the opportunity to help generate offense and not get pushed around easily. If he doesn’t make the Coyotes immediately out of camp, a short stop in San Antonio may be all he needs to readjust his bearings for an NHL career.

5. (5) Kevin Porter, C

4th Round, 119th – 2004, 22, 5’11, 194

The former Hobey Baker winner is the Coyotes best two-way threat. After capping off an amazing collegiate career, Porter gave us a sneak peak of what he could bring to the pro game in the AHL playoffs for the Rampage. Noted for his on-ice smarts, scoring prowess, and ability to elevate this game, Porter is also gunning for full-time duty in Phoenix. Porter reads and reacts extremely well and can play at a high level in adverse situations. Not as flashy as some of the other top-end prospects, the pivot can still get the job done and produce points. Away from the puck, Porter shows an exceptional ability to be a reliable defensive player. With all these tangibles coming into play, Porter is truly going to be one to watch starting at camp.

6. (7) Enver Lisin, RW

2nd Round, 50th – 2004, 22, 6’1, 185

After a year in the AHL with San Antonio, Lisin is legitimately the closest he has ever been to making the Coyotes full time.  With a little NHL experience under his belt and the guidance of the Rampage coaching staff, Lisin should be able to make the jump and work his way into the rotation. He offers a lot of speed and skill with the puck and can generate scoring chances with both. He has also picked up his responsibility when it comes to playing away from the puck, which makes him better suited for the NHL moving forward.  More of a mental enigma coming out of the gate in 2004, Lisin has matured into a player poised to make a splash on the biggest stage.

7. (8) Brett MacLean, LW

2nd Round, 32nd – 2007, 19, 6’1, 195

MacLean’s stock continues to soar after an electrifying year with Oshawa in the OHL. While he put up gaudy numbers, he is ready to shift his attention to the pro game. One facet of his game that needed working on was his skating. Early reports indicate that that, along with his overall strength and stamina, are the main focus of his off-season workout. One source close to the team stated that MacLean is working hard and has made vast improvements to those areas and is probably going to catch people off guard. He should to be an explosive player with a knack for finding the back of the net, as he was in junior. If he can keep up to speed and deliver at a high tempo, expect MacLean to be a regular with Phoenix rather quickly.

8. (6) Chris Summers, D

1st Round, 29th – 2006, 20, 6’1, 180

Heading into his junior year at the University of Michigan, Summers is preparing for change. While he has played defense (with tons of success) for quite some time now, the Coyotes would like to see him moved up to forward. However, the move is not a “for sure” thing, as it may seem. The Wolverines already have a very effective and tight-knit blueline, which includes Summers. Though, after head coach Red Berenson lost his top line from last season, there is a bit of a void. However, it appears that Berenson is willing to move him up to left wing if one of the two incoming freshmen can fill his vacancy on the blueline and Summers can provide a consistent impact up front. Regardless of where he ends up, Summers overall talent — most notably staking and puck-possession ability — is what continues to make him shine.

9. (9) Nick Ross, D

1st round, 30th – 2007, 19, 6’0, 195

Phoenix would love to bring Ross into the mix this season, but they’re also content with sending him back to Kamloops in the WHL for one more year. He’ll come to camp knowing the Coyotes defense is more than likely set for the 2008-09 season, but of course things can change at a moment’s notice. He already knows what to expect coming into training camp, where he shined last year, so one should expect to see the high level talent Ross offers. He’s a quality two-way defenseman who likes to throw the body, but has above average offensive instincts. He can lead the rush and can handle to the point, but much like Yandle, the key to Ross’ future success is the fluidity of his overall game.

10. (2) Al Montoya, G

Trade with New York Rangers – 2008, 23, 6’2, 190

Montoya’s fall is not indicative of a lack of talent or lack of faith from the organization. Fact is, the Coyotes are in dire need of talent up front and they’ve addressed that with stockpiling those areas. Phoenix also doesn’t seem so worried that they need to rush Montoya to any extent either. A likely move this year – either coming out of camp or somewhere a quarter or a half of the way into the season — would be to move Montoya to the desert to back up Ilya Bryzgalov. Montoya has proven himself in the AHL for the past three seasons and needs to be pushed at the next level. Goaltender is the hardest position, but Montoya seems to have a handle on it and the Coyotes wouldn’t have traded to get him if they weren’t confident of that fact.

11. (14) Chad Kolarik, RW

7th Round, 199th – 2004, 22, 5’11, 170

The 2004 late-round pick continues to form into a gem for the Coyotes. After a stellar college career alongside Porter at the University of Michigan, the sniper has improved his overall game immensely. He figures to be a surefire two-way threat for Phoenix down the road. Kolarik is going into training camp gunning for a job and will probably make a lot of noise. Though, the forward will probably be better poised to take in a season in the AHL with the Rampage. Regardless of where he ends up, Kolarik needs to continue to show the two-way smarts that made him so dangerous back at Michigan.  He has the speed, skill, and moxie to play at the NHL level. All he has to do is continue to polish his game without losing his edge.

12. (11) Jonas Ahnelov, D

3rd round, 88th – 2006, 19, 6’3, 205

After developing back in Sweden with the Frolunda Indians for the past half decade, the scenery is changing for Jonas Ahnelov. Set to make his transition to the North American game, Ahnelov is slotted to begin his Coyotes career in the AHL. A defensive defenseman who has the makings of a future premiere shutdown blueliner, Ahnelov is heading into this year looking to improve his overall skating and looking to adjust to the tempo and style of game in North America. He’s good in his own end, shows to be puck steady, and he loves to throw the body. However, once he gets more seasoned within the system, expect Ahnelov to work on rounding out the transitional part and offensive side of the game to make him a complete package before he moves on.

13. (12) Josh Tordjman, G

Signed as Free Agent – 2005, 22, 6’1, 165

Playing a bit of catch up coming into the organization as an undrafted free agent, Josh Tordjman remains the feel-good story on the prospect front as he continues to progress between the pipes. He looks to build on his almost two seasons of experience in the AHL, where he has put up excellent numbers. Tordjman is a ways off from seeing duty in the NHL, but it’s a long process. He’ll return to San Antonio next season and look to guide the team to the postseason once again. Rampage head coach Greg Ireland likes to ride hot goalies over stretches, so in order for Tordjman to step out, he’s going to have to continue to step up with solid consistent play.

14. (16) Joel Gistedt, G

2nd Round, 36th overall – 2007, 20, 5’11, 175

Like his former Swedish teammate Ahnelov, Gistedt is joining the Coyotes system having signed an entry-level deal over the summer. The young netminder rode some highs and lows over the last two seasons with Frolunda back in the SEL, but he’s poised to make the most of his development in North America. With past experience playing at the elite level back in Sweden, Gistedt knows what it takes to be successful. This year is going to be a test as the goalie starts to assimilate himself to his new environment. He is still years from the NHL. Coupled with a solid starter in Phoenix, the franchise is going to take their time bringing him along. Expect Gistedt to get his start in the AHL with the Rampage. However, if Montoya doesn’t earn backup duties with the Coyotes coming out of camp, the netminder might see significant time with the Arizona Sundogs in the CHL.

15. (NR) Alex Bourret, RW

Trade with New York Rangers – 2008, 22, 5’10, 205

Bourret has bounced around a bit in his young career, but General Manager Don Maloney is hoping that this will be the right place and right time for the young winger to fulfill his full potential. He had his first season in the pros during the 2006-07 campaign. He had a couple rough stretches last season and had to deal with the injury bug. While he’ll get every opportunity to fight for a job in Phoenix, chances are Bourret will spend a significant amount of time down in San Antonio with the Rampage. If he jumps on every opportunity, expect the Coyotes to come calling. They love his overall speed and puck possession skills and feel he’ll be a nice piece of the puzzle in their youth movement.

16. (17) Benn Ferriero, C

7th Round, 196th – 2006, 21, 5’11, 175

Ferriero enters his senior year with Boston College, where he’ll be looked at to produce a hefty bulk of the offense. It shouldn’t be a problem, as the crafty pivot has been a consistent point producer for the Eagles each of his first three years. BC is loaded with talented roster, but most of it is young and untested players. It will be interesting to see if head coach Jerry York leaves Ferriero on the wing (where he ended last season) or move him back to the middle to center the top line. He’ll more than likely be lined up on a veteran line, but the Eagles have a couple incoming freshmen who may be able to fit in at the top. Regardless of who he ends up playing alongside, Ferriero is expected to have a big year.

17. (13) Logan Stephenson, D

2nd Round, 35th – 2004, 22, 6’3, 197

Stephenson came out of the WHL guns a blazing and was pegged as the Coyotes best up-and-coming rugged shutdown defenseman. However, Stephenson has yet to play with a level of consistency that would help his own cause. He’s in the last year of his contract and they’re going to watch him like a hawk even more so this year as they evaluate if he should be re-signed. If he can’t step up this year and show that he can be that shutdown type of defenseman, who can eat minutes and be effective at the next level, Stephenson could find himself out of the program and looking for a new franchise to call home. Still very young and by far not a quitter, he has the opportunity to refocus on get back on track.

18. (15) Sean Sullivan, D

9th Round, 272nd – 2003, 24, 6’0, 190

After completing his first full season at the pro level, many feel that Sullivan holds tons of potential and could find his way to the NHL sooner rather than later. Even though he’s the oldest prospect on this list, Sullivan’s all-around package is attractive, which is highlighted by solid work in his own zone — tough and smart. It looks like Sullivan will take that to San Antonio, as it’s safe to say he’ll be playing out the bulk of this season with the Rampage. Sullivan is blue-collar lunch pail-toting type of player who’s going to give you quality minutes. He has good composure and he’s very competent moving the puck. He’ll definitely be a welcomed addition for the Coyotes at the AHL level.

19. (19) Vladimir Ruzicka, C

4th Round, 103rd – 2007, 19, 6’1, 180

Ruzicka fell into fortunate opportunities last season. Given the chance to play in many situations, the rookie proved his worth during his rookie season with HC Slavia Praha. Playing on a veteran squad all the way into the playoffs – and winning the championship – paid off for Praha and the young Ruzicka. He should see an increase in duties this year as the team looks to defend last year’s crown. This should be a telling year for the Coyotes. He appears to have matured and his game has grown. If he has a breakout year, or is on the cusp of reaching his potential, one wouldn’t doubt that Phoenix would love to bring him into the mix next season. However, Ruzicka also happens to play for his father, so wrangling him from a cozy position back home might be an interesting subplot to follow next summer.

20. (NR) Jared Staal, RW

2nd Round, 49th – 2008, 18, 6’2, 200

Dubbed a “project” that the Coyotes hope will pay off, Jared Staal will spend the next couple years in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves growing into his body and defining his game.  He showed great promise last year and everyone is hoping that he can continue that growth right into the NHL, where all three of his brothers are currently playing. The Coyotes have time to let Staal mature and develop at a good pace. He’s going to be looked at extensively back in Sudbury to be a force and a source of points. Phoenix is hoping the best genes were saved for last and the youngest Staal will be just as bright of a star when he gets to the pro ranks.