Coyotes 2008 traning camp preview

By Jeff Dahlia

Around this time four years ago in Phoenix, no one really would have raised an eyebrow as the Coyotes took the ice for training camp. Today, the winds are changing and the interest in this team is starting to grow again. After working hard to rebuild the franchise through the draft, the team is set to have one of their most interesting training camps in years. Sure, GM Don Maloney went out and signed some players in the off-season to help give the roster a boost, but there are still vacancies in Phoenix and there’s a bushel of rookies looking to snag spots.

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Kyle Turris is a lock for the team. The writing has been on the wall for months.  Since joining the Coyotes for the last three games of the season last year, the 19-year-old pivot out of the University of Wisconsin has since been on a one-way ticket to the NHL.

In addition to Turris, the Coyotes will probably look to take – at the most – two younger forwards. Off the top, there are 2008 draft picks Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov. Both were signed this summer and both could fit into the scheme of things right away. Behind them is the pair of forwards, Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, now in the system after a lengthy and productive stay at the University of Michigan and ready to compete. Of the two, Porter has the lead, but Kolarik could be a wild card late into camp. Next is Brett MacLean. After spending last season the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, MacLean comes back to camp prepared and looking to be a big factor. And finally, more seasoned prospects Enver Lisin and newcomer Alex Bourret will also be among the mix.

It’s interesting to see such a wealth of diverse talent up front this early in the summer. Depending on how the team starts to mold over the coming weeks will determine who stays and who goes. Head coach Wayne Gretzky will not have easy decisions to make; one could say it’s a good problem to have. The team is as eager as ever to add talented youth and move forward. Expect Lisin to get a good look. He’s been in the system and the team seems to really confident with him. Boedker would be the next best pick, but with all those names mentioned above, it’s really wide open. While you want to bring a sliver of youth into the mix each year, the Coyotes might be content with sending a large group down to San Antonio to grow together. Regardless, no one is leaving the Sonoran Desert without a fight at forward.

Back on defense, 22-year-old Keith Yandle is set to stay on with the team full-time, having played 43 games last year. But there really aren’t any immediate openings.  The team would love to bring 2007 first-rounder Nick Ross into the mix and he might very well make another lasting impression. There is really no need to rush the 19-year-old blueliner, so one final year in junior is likely. The only other prospect at this position who would have an outside chance is 20-year-oldSwede  Jonas Ahnelov.  He’s a long shot and is more than likely to spend his time to adjusting and fine-tuning his game down in the AHL first.

Since Ilya Bryzgalov has a stranglehold as the team’s starting goalie, there is only a backup position open for consideration. The Coyotes have Mikael Tellqvist currently in that role. With the arrival of Joel Gistedt in the system, there is a traffic jam in the minors. If Tellqvist gets moved – as it’s suspected he will – expect Al Montoya to get the bump up to backup.

Sundogs back on board for 2008-09

The Coyotes extended their double-A affiliation agreement with the Arizona Sundogs of the CHL. Last season, the Sundogs won their first ever league championship. Current prospects David Schlemko and Sean Sullivan played with Arizona last season.

Front office moves

This summer Tom Kurvers was named as the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s Assistant General Manager and Greg Malone was named the team’s head professional scout. Prior to their appointments, Kurvers served as the Coyotes director of player personnel and Malone as a Coyotes professional scout.

Back in Phoenix, Assistant General Manager Brad Trevliving added the title of General Manager of the San Antonio Rampage to his duties.

In the amateur scouting department, Keith Gretzky had his contract extended. Steve Lyons was also promoted to Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting. The Coyotes also welcomed back Sean Burke to their front office. He was named the Phoenix’s director of prospect development.