Coyotes 2005 draft evaluation

By Andrew Sykes

The Phoenix Coyotes found themselves two players in 2005 who appear to be important fixtures in the lineup for years to come, but they also selected three players who more than likely will never appear in the NHL.

With their first and fourth-round picks, the Coyotes grabbed two players who both took very little time in reaching their NHL potential, but it was their second-round pick that turned out to be the biggest disappointment on draft day. After trading their 2005 fourth-round pick and 2006 second-round pick to Philadelphia for their 2005 second-round pick (59th overall), the Coyotes were left with just five total selections. The trade allowed Phoenix to select a promising young goaltender from the QMJHL, a player whom the Coyotes had coveted going into the draft. With their final two picks, the Coyotes selected a young Russian center in the fifth-round and an imposing winger from Yale in the NCAA.

At first glance it is easy to see what the Coyotes had in mind for their 2005 draft: size. All five of their selections were 6’2 or taller and it is not every day you see a 6’6 center being taken in the first round which is just what the Coyotes got when they selected Martin Hanzal with the 17th pick. In the fourth round, the Coyotes found themselves one of the biggest steals of the draft when they selected Keith Yandle out of a Massachusetts prep school.

Martin Hanzal, C, Budejovice (Czech) – 1st round, 17th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 227

Heading into his draft year, Hanzal possessed everything that makes a scout drool. At 6’6 and well over 220 lbs, Hanzal could make your head turn before he even stepped on the ice, especially when he lined up as a center. Most players with such size are seen as stay-at-home defensemen, but Hanzal was a strong-skating pivot which made scouts salivate even more.

After splitting his draft year in the Czech league and the USHL, Hanzal, while highly-regarded, was still somewhat of an unknown to scouts due to an overall lack of exposure. By the time the 2005 draft rolled around, he was expected to go sometime in the first round, and ended up going 17th.

To further prove himself, Hanzal elected to play a season in the WHL where he was certain to improve many areas of his game. In 60 games with the Red Deer Rebels, Hanzal scored 26 goals and added 59 assists for an impressive 85-point campaign. The big Czech also pleased the Coyotes brass by showing off his enormous frame in the physical department as he racked up 94 penalty minutes in the rough and tumble WHL.

The following year, the 20-year-old Hanzal cracked the Coyotes lineup for the 2007-08 season and has stuck since. In three NHL seasons, Hanzal has become one of the game’s most underrated two-way forwards and should continue to be a front-line player for Phoenix in the years to come.

Pier-Olivier Pelletier, G, Drummondville (QMJHL) – 2nd round, 59th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Maybe it was the pressure of knowing that a team had traded up in order to get him, or maybe he was just simply never as good as the Coyotes thought he was. Whatever the reason, Pelletier’s career has been one of tremendous disappointment.

Pelletier started his junior career with Drummondville in the QMJHL and despite enduring two losing seasons with the Voltigeurs, the young netminder was ranked as one of the top goalies in the 2005 class. Known for being a big goaltender with exceptional athleticism, Pelletier didn’t have the greatest of draft years but showed glimpses of his potential. Entering the draft, one of the areas that Phoenix management thought needed stabilizing was goaltending and with Pelletier rated highly on their charts, they knew he was the guy they wanted. A trade with the Flyers gave the Coyotes a better second-round pick and they quickly pulled the trigger on Pelletier citing a need for a good young goalie in the system.

Pelletier followed the draft up with a solid third season in Drummondville in which he compiled a 29-18 record and a second-round playoff appearance. Despite his successful season, Pelletier was traded to the Halifax Mooseheads who were looking to stockpile a roster that could compete for a championship. Pelletier once again compiled a solid win-loss record but his goals against and save percentage were inflated. After being unable to ink a pro contract, Pelletier spent the 2008-09 season in the CIS with the University of Waterloo, appearing in just 12 games.

Now out of favor in the Coyotes system, Pelletier saw time with three different teams in three different leagues during the 2009-10 season. The 23-year-old began the year in the little known LNAH, a Quebec league famous more for on-ice antics and fisticuffs rather than developing young hockey players. He then made his first appearances in the ECHL with the Elmira Jackals before finishing the season with Laredo of the Central Hockey League.

Keith Yandle, D, Cushing Academy (USHSE) – 4th round, 119th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 201

In any NHL draft there are bound to be a number of mid or late-round steals, and that is exactly what the Coyotes landed on when they selected Keith Yandle in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.

The main reason for Yandle falling so far was likely the fact that he had only been playing high school hockey. The 2005 class was considered to be loaded with top tier defensemen and even though Yandle was highly rated, a lot of teams held the lack of competition against the young Boston native. At 19, Yandle already possessed good size and mobility, and that is exactly what the Coyotes were looking for.

Heading into the draft, Yandle had verbally committed to play at the University of New Hampshire but he later decided to forgo his college eligibility and instead went on to play for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. His lone season in Moncton was simply spectacular. Yandle scored 25 goals and collected 59 assists en route to a superb 84-point campaign. At the conclusion of the season Yandle was named the Emile Bouchard Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman. Yandle and his Moncton teammates went on to capture the QMJHL championship and fell one game short of the Memorial Cup, losing in the final to the Quebec Remparts, the same team they had previously defeated to win the Quebec league crown.

Yandle played his first pro hockey season in 2006-07 playing in 69 games for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL and immediately showed his tremendous all-around skills. A year later, Yandle became a regular on the Coyotes blue line, demonstrating poise beyond his years.

Having just completed his second full season in the NHL, Yandle has established himself as one of the game’s brightest young defensemen. Mid-way through the 2009-10 campaign, Yandle was considered to be a candidate to crack the U.S. roster for the Vancouver Olympics but was disappointingly left off. Shaking off that disappointment, Yandle helped spearhead the Coyotes dramatic turn-around as he appeared in all 82 games for the club and led all Phoenix defensemen in goals and points, as well as registering a team-high +16.

A fourth-round draft pick, Yandle has turned himself into one of the best young defensemen in the league, and was undoubtedly one of the best picks of the 2005 NHL Draft.

Anton Krysanov, C, Lada Togliatti, Russia – 5th round, 148th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Like Hanzal, Krysanov was another giant center coveted because of his size, but was considered to be more of a project than anything. Krysanov played in the Russian Super League as an 18-year-old where he showed some decent progression, good enough for Phoenix to draft the young Russian in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. Krysanov remained with Lada for the next four years where he has progressed into a reliable two-way centerman.

Krysanov played the 2009-10 season with the legendary Dynamo Moscow, and on a team loaded with talent, Krysanov proved to be one of the team’s best checking forwards. But the team folded at the end of the season leaving many of its players in limbo.

Like many Russian players drafted in the lower rounds, it remains unknown whether Krysanov will attempt a career in North America. He will have to decide in the next couple of years if he is serious about playing in the NHL, otherwise the Coyotes will likely have to cut ties with him.

Pat Brosnihan, RW, Worcester Academy (USHSE) – 7th round, 212th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0 

With their final pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, the Coyotes took Brosnihan, an imposing winger who played for a small school in the USHSE. Thought to a big player with some skill and a good skating ability, Brosnihan committed to play university hockey for the Yale Bulldogs. After four years at Yale, Brosnihan never quite developed the skill set that the Coyotes thought he would, wrapping up his collegiate career with just 12 total goals in a four-year span.

Brosnihan played the 2009-10 season with the Alaska Aces in the ECHL appearing in 23 games, registering just two assists.

The odds of a seventh-round pick turning into an AHL or NHL player are often very long, and Brosnihan didn’t beat the odds.