Coyotes 2010 draft preview

By Andrew Sykes

Top 10 prospects

1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D
2. Brett MacLean, LW
3. Viktor Tikhonov, C
4. David Schlemko, D
5. Chris Summers, D
6. Chris Brown, LW
7. Maxim Goncharov, D
8. Jonas Ahnelov, D
9. Mike Lee, G
10. Nick Ross, D

Don Maloney was recently named the inaugural recipient of the NHL’s General Manager of the Year Award, and he’ll need every bit of that skill in this year’s draft. In an effort to further boost the Coyotes impressive turnaround, several draft picks were traded and Maloney was left with just five total selections at the 2010 NHL Draft. He’ll have a chance to acquire two talented players though as the Coyotes will pick twice in the first round — 13th and 22nd overall.

Team Needs

If you look at the list of Phoenix Coyotes prospects, one thing you’ll quickly notice is the abundance of defensemen and the lack of forwards. This team greatly needs to find some depth up front, preferably on the wings. With former first-round picks such as Kyle Turris and Mikael Boedker on the cusp of full-time NHL duty, the Coyotes will be left with very little talent up-front in their minor-league system. A skilled winger or perhaps even a power forward is something that Maloney may want to address given the shortage of both in the system.

Another area for concern is in net. Phoenix has a handful of goalies in the minors and at the collegiate level, but none that seem to be even close to reaching their potential. Ilya Bryzgalov has turned himself into one of the best goaltenders in the league and should have the starting job locked down for the next few years, but the chance to add a future No. 1 goalie might be something to think about. WHL stand-out Calvin Pickard and young American sensation Jack Campbell are two goalies who may be an option should they still be available at 22.

Organizational Strengths

The strength of the Coyotes organization right now is without question the depth on the blue-line. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Chris Summers, David Schlemko, Jonas Ahnelov, Maxim Goncharov, Nick Ross, Michael Stone and Mathieu Brodeur, Phoenix has a group of defensive prospects among the best in the league. The Coyotes NHL roster also boasts a deep core of defensemen and playing time will be hard to come by. This will allow most of these young players to further develop and improve at the AHL level, which should mean that the Coyotes blue line will be a major organizational strength for years to come.

Organizational Weaknesses

Phoenix has a definite shortage of forwards in the system, particularly on the wings. Kyle Turris, Mikael Boedker, Brett MacLean, and Viktor Tikhonov seem to be the only players that are ready for the NHL. After those four players, there simply isn’t much to bank on at any of the forward positions. Colin Long and Brett Hextall are two smallish centers who need a lot of work in the minors. Chris Brown, a second-round pick in 2009, is a big winger who just completed his freshmen season at the University of Michigan and likely won’t see professional hockey for at least two more years.

Another weakness is in goal. The Coyotes have tried to stabilize the position by acquiring a host of goalies, but there haven’t been any that have really impressed. Mike Lee, a third-round pick in 2009, has shown glimpses of some good potential but is yet to play with much consistency. Commodities such as collegians Scott Darling and Brett Bennett, and recent acquisition Miika Wiikman, aren’t names to rely on.

Draft Tendencies

If there are any tendencies to be found in Maloney’s last few drafts, it has to be the number of CHL players he has chosen. In the 2008 draft, The Coyotes grabbed the super-skilled Mikael Boedker from the Kitchener Rangers in the first round. After selecting Russian Viktor Tikhonov in the second round, Phoenix then drafted six straight players from the CHL to close out their draft.

In 2009, Swedish defenseman Ekman-Larsson was the club’s first-round pick at six overall, while three of the team’s five remaining picks were used on players from the CHL.

With two first-round picks, the Coyotes will be a team to watch. Don’t be surprised if Maloney once again takes a Euro with his 13th overall pick, before looking to North America for the remaining selections.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:

At No. 13: Alex Burmistrov, C

The Coyotes have a lack of skilled forwards in their system and there aren’t many players in this year’s class with the skill set that Burmistrov possesses. It is also a major plus that he has already played in North America and seems serious about playing in the NHL, which is not too common for Russian players these days. Burmistrov is a flashy player with tremendous puck handling and elite playmaking ability. Despite his small frame, Burmistrov protects the puck extremely well and is capable of creating a play from anywhere in the offensive zone.

At No. 22: John McFarland, LW

McFarland’s stock has fallen considerably throughout the last year, but any team that gets him late in the first round may very well have landed on a major steal of the draft. McFarland’s skill has never been in question, but after scoring just 20 goals for Sudbury this past season, he has been labeled as a player who doesn’t always give a full effort.

A player like McFarland fits the Coyotes needs perfectly. He is a strong, fast-skating winger with an untapped ability to score. Phoenix has seen such a tremendous reclamation this past year, and they will be hoping that it can rub off on McFarland.