Coyotes AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Andrew Sykes

The San Antonio Rampage put together a winning season but it was not enough to get into the playoffs. With 36 wins and 84 points the Rampage finished 10th in the AHL’s western conference. The Las Vegas Wranglers finished the year with 76 points and were eliminated in the first round of the ECHL playoffs.

Brett MacLean, LW, 21
6’1, 200 lbs
2nd round, 32nd overall, 2007

MacLean, a second-year pro, was undoubtedly San Antonio’s MVP this season. The 21-year-old led the team in goals, points, power-play goals, shots on goal and plus/minus. His 30 goals were good enough for 11th in the league and his 14 power-play goals and 252 shots on goal ranked him fifth in both categories. Aside from his stout offensive numbers, MacLean was also one of only a handful of players on the Rampage roster who finished the season with a plus rating (+13).

After two seasons in the AHL, MacLean has established himself as the Coyotes top minor-league performer, and the winger recently got his first taste of the NHL playoffs when he was called up during the Coyotes first-round series. Despite not seeing any game action, MacLean has seemingly done everything he can to prove that he is ready for the next step and he should be a strong candidate to crack the Coyotes lineup next season.

David Schlemko, D, 22
6’1, 171 lbs
Acquired as a free agent in 2007

The undrafted Schlemko has once again put himself in the thick of things for the Coyotes blue line. The 22-year-old defenseman appeared in 17 games this year for the Coyotes before finishing the season in San Antonio. In those 17 NHL games, Schlemko scored one goal, dished out four assists, and stayed on the plus side of things with a +1 rating. In 55 games in San Antonio, he scored five times and registered 26 assists. His 31 points ranked him third on the team among defensemen despite playing in considerably fewer games. He was a -4 on the year, which was the best rating among all Rampage rearguards.

Had he played more games, Schlemko would have certainly been the highest-scoring defenseman for San Antonio, and it is that offensive potential that will give Schlemko a good chance to once again see some action in the NHL next year.

Jonas Ahnelov, D, 22
6’3, 205 lbs
3rd round, 88th overall, 2006

What was to be an important season in Ahnelov’s progression instead turned into a nightmarish, injury-riddled campaign for the young Swede. Ahnelov appeared in just 11 regular-season games with the Rampage before suffering a shoulder injury which has become a reoccurring problem. Ahnelov was never able to recover from the injury and his season turned into a complete wash. In his 11 games before the shoulder troubles, the 22-year-old defenseman collected just one assist.

A player whom the Coyotes pegged as having a lot of upside, Ahnelov must now use the off-season to fully heal his injury and hope that he can quickly regain his form in time for next year.

Nick Ross, D, 21
6’0, 195 lbs
1st round, 30th overall, 2007

Ross, a first-round pick in 2007, saw time in the ECHL with the Wranglers as well as appearing in 47 games for San Antonio. The 21-year-old blueliner struggled at times with the Rampage and only managed to score two assists. Defensively, Ross held his own but he could never really stay consistent over a long stretch of hockey and ended the season with a -11 rating.

It was a tough season at times for the promising young defenseman, but Ross can be pleased with the fact that he gained some much-needed experience at the AHL level and should be able to improve considerably as he enters his second pro season.

Colin Long, C, 20
5’10, 186 lbs
4th round, 99th overall, 2008

Long was another youngster who experienced his first season in professional hockey. The former high-scoring junior played in 29 games for the Rampage, scoring two goals and adding another two assists in a limited role with the club. One of his two goals did come on the power play which is a good sign because that has always been something that Long has thrived at. If he hopes to ever become a high-scoring pro, he will likely have to do much of his damage on the power play.

A native of Santa Ana, California, Long was always an offense-first player when he starred for the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. After a season in which the chances to produce offensively were few and far between, Long will have to continue to show a greater commitment to two-way hockey and prove that he is capable of contributing at both ends of the ice.

Justin Bernhardt, C, 22
6’1, 181 lbs
Acquired as a free agent in 2009

Bernhardt, a hard-working center, demonstrated the same strong work ethic and determination he did when he was a junior in the WHL. Never the most skilled player, Bernhardt is a good two-way pivot who plays with an edge and never shies away from the physical part of the game.

Bernhardt saw time with both the Wranglers and Rampage, playing a total of 43 games. With the Wranglers, the 22-year-old was a solid contributor with five goals and six assists in 29 games, and was his usual feisty self, racking up 50 penalty minutes. In his 14 appearances with the Rampage, Bernhardt scored a goal and added two assists, and performed well defensively, maintaining an even rating. 

Sean Sullivan, D, 26
6’0, 190 lbs
9th round, 272nd overall, 2002

In his third season with the Rampage, Sullivan enjoyed his finest season. The 26-year-old led all San Antonio defensemen in goals (12), assists (37) and in points with 49. He also led all rearguards with 175 shots on goal. The 49 points that Sullivan posted was good enough for eighth in the league among defensemen. Despite being a -7 on the season, Sullivan was a horse defensively, logging a ton of minutes on the back end.

Yet to play a game in the NHL, Sullivan has proven to be capable of contributing offensively and remaining steady in his own zone. He and Schlemko are probably the most NHL-ready defensemen in the Coyotes system.

Miika Wiikman, G, 25
6’0, 172 lbs
Acquired via trade in 2010

Wiikman came over in a deadline deal with the New York Rangers and appeared in just five games for the Rampage posting a 0-1-1 record. Signed as a free agent by the Rangers in 2008, Wiikman began this year with the Hartford Wolfpack, playing in just seven games before being reassigned to the Rangers ECHL affiliate in Charlotte. It was with the Checkers that Wiikman played his best hockey of the season, compiling a 9-3-3 record, a 2.84 GAA and a .900 save percentage.

Finishing the season as one of the Rampage’s two netminders, Wiikman has a chance to see increased playing time next season. He will be in the mix for the starting job in San Antonio, but will have to prove himself capable of handling that job with a good performance at training camp.

Joel Gistedt, G, 22 
6’0, 176 lbs
2nd round, 36th overall, 2006

Gistedt’s career has got to be considered somewhat of a disappointment to this point. A former second-round draft pick, Gistedt has played in just one game for the Rampage since the Coyotes selected him in the 2007 draft. This year he saw action in 20 games for Las Vegas in which he posted a 7-8-2 record, 4.06 GAA, and a .870 save percentage.

A return to Sweden seems imminent at this point.