Only three players from 2006 Draft class remain with Phoenix Coyotes

By Andrew Sykes
Photo: Defenseman Chris Summers is currently the only member of the Coyotes’ 2006 draft class who is both still with the organization and playing in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of Wolverines Athletics)

After a promising beginning, the 2006 draft has turned into somewhat of a disappointment for the Coyotes. With the eighth pick in that year’s draft, Phoenix selected Peter Mueller, who by all accounts was the best player available at the time. Later in the first-round, Phoenix grabbed defenseman Chris Summers who remains in the Coyotes system as their highest-rated prospect from the 2006 draft.

To date, Mueller and the recently recalled Chris Summers are the only players to appear in a Coyotes uniform, while seventh-rounder Benn Ferriero found a home with the San Jose Sharks.

Peter Mueller, C, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – 1st round, eighth overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 222

With the eighth overall pick, the Coyotes selected Peter Mueller, a sturdy, high-scoring American center who was playing for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. After playing a year with the U.S. Development Program, Mueller hoped that a move to the CHL would give him more exposure during his draft year. He performed well with Everett averaging over a point per game and his strong play earned him a spot on team U.S.A at the World Junior Hockey Championships where he registered six points in seven games.

In 2006-07, Mueller had another strong season with the Silvertips finishing second on the club in scoring and once again earning a trip to the World Juniors.

After a short two-year junior career, Mueller made the Coyotes for the 2007-08 season. Under head coach Wayne Gretzky, he scored 22 goals and totaled 54 points which were the third highest on the team in both categories. During the season Mueller was selected to play in the NHL YoungStars game as a part of All-Star Weekend. The following season, Mueller’s production diminished but he was still one of the club’s top threats finishing fourth on the team with 36 points.

Having not seen playoff action in almost eight years, the Coyotes patience with young players, particularly Mueller, began to wear thin. After appearing in 54 games in 2009-2010, Mueller was dealt to the Avalanche for winger Wojtek Wolski who had begun to find himself in a similar situation to that of Mueller’s. Following the trade Mueller caught fire with the Avs down the stretch scoring nine goals and dishing out 11 assists in just 15 games but suffered a concussion in a late season game. Since then he has continued to be plagued by post-concussion symptoms and is yet to resume skating as he seeks further medical options for his injury.

Chris Summers, D, U.S. National U-18 – 1st round, 29th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 2

After taking a skilled forward with their first pick of the 2006 NHL draft, the Coyotes had a second first-round pick which they acquired in a previous trade with Detroit. At 29th overall they selected Chris Summers, a smooth-skating defenseman who played his draft year with the United States under-18 program which operates out of Ann Arbor, Michigan and also happened to be the home of Summers.

Naturally, Summers was heavily-recruited by the University of Michigan and would go on to play four years with the Wolverines under legendary head coach Red Berenson. In his senior season, Summers was picked as the team captain and helped lead his squad to the CCHA championship.

Following his collegiate career, Summers signed a two-year entry-level contract with Phoenix where he has spent the current season in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage. In 44 games with the club he has scored just one goal and added seven assists, but despite his lack of point production, the 22-year-old has been one of the top rookie rearguards in the league and was recently rewarded with a call-up to the big club. On January 20, Summers played in his first NHL game seeing 13 minutes of ice-time in a 2-0 victory over the Los Angles Kings.

Jonas Ahnelov, D, Frolunda HC (SEL) – 3rd round, 88th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

With their third-round, 88th overall selection, the Coyotes took Swedish defenseman Jonas Ahnelov who as an 18-year-old was playing with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. Considered to be a powerful skater with a tough physical side to his game, Ahnelov was compared to Mattias Norstrom because of his strength and penchant for delivering heavy body-checks. Since leaving Sweden to pursue a career in the NHL, Ahnelov is yet to establish himself in North America due largely in part to a constant slew of injuries.

In two and a half seasons with the San Antonio Rampage, Ahnelov has appeared in a total of 83 games, scoring a single goal to go along with eight assists. This year the 23-year-old has played in 29 of the club’s 47 games and is yet to register a point but has at least managed to play in a greater number of games than he did in the previous two seasons.

Brett Bennett, G, U.S. National U-18 – 5th round, 130th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

In the fifth round, the Coyotes selected goaltender Brett Bennett who much like Chris Summers, was a member of the U.S. National Under-18 program. After two years with the program, Bennett moved on to Boston University where he played 32 impressive games for the Terriers. It had been a successful tenure at BU but Bennett felt that the situation just wasn’t right and decided to transfer schools. As per NCAA rules, Bennett had to sit out a year before he could resume his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. He spent the 2008-09 season with the Indiana Ice in the USHL where he ranked as one of the top goalies in the league. In 54 games he posted a sparkling 35-17-2 record with a 2.59 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.

Eligible to play for Wisconsin in 2009, Bennett shared the goaltending duties and helped to lead the Badgers to the Frozen Four where they were defeated in the National Championship game by Boston College. Now in his senior year, the 22-year-old has seen his playing time diminish due to the stellar play of fellow senior Scott Gudmandson, and has appeared in just eight of the school’s 28 total games.

Martin Latal, LW, Kladno (Czech) – 5th round. 152nd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A small but feisty winger, Latal was the
second of two fifth-round picks for the Coyotes. Splitting his draft year between Plzen and Kladno of the Czech league, Latal was considered to be an excellent offensive player with blazing speed that he utilized to not only create scoring chances but to also be a very effective penalty killer.

In 2006-2007 Latal was selected by the Prince Edward Island Rockets in the CHL Import Draft and despite experiencing a little culture shock in the beginning, went on to enjoy a solid rookie season in the QMJHL. In 66 games he finished fifth on the team in scoring with 46 points and demonstrated a chippy side to his game with 90 penalty minutes; the third most on the club. He also averaged a point per game in the Rockets opening round playoff series in which they were defeated in seven games. Latal followed up his 46 point rookie season with 45 points the following year and the Rockets were again eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs.

Despite two successful seasons as a junior player in Canada, Latal decided that it would be best for him to head back home and continue his career as a professional in his native Czech Republic. He spent two seasons with Sparta Praha and was never really able to get going offensively, registering only ten and nine points respectively. Latal has since found his way back to Kladno and has started to hit his stride playing for the same team he played for as a 17-year-old. In 42 games he has already set career highs in goals, assists and points.

Jordan Bendfeld, D, Medicine Hat (WHL) – 5th round, 152nd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Described as a man among boys during his junior career with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Bendfeld was the third defenseman chosen by Phoenix in the 2006 NHL draft. At 6’3 and well over 200 pounds he was the consummate stay-at-home defenseman with a decent skill-set, but was certainly more valuable for his physical nature than anything else. In 2006, his second year in the WHL, Bendfeld was apart of a star-studded Medicine Hat team that included the likes of NHL players such as Darren Helm (DET), Tyler Ennis (BUF), Derek Dorsett (CLB) and current Coyotes blue-liner David Schlemko. The team went on to win the WHL championship and then get all the way to the Memorial Cup final where they were defeated by Milan Lucic (BOS) and the Vancouver Giants.

After failing to ink a contract with the Coyotes following his junior career, Bendfeld decided to re-enter the draft and was selected in the 7th round of the 2008 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. The past two seasons he has been seeing time with both Stockton in the ECHL and Oklahoma City in the AHL but is yet to appear in a regular season NHL contest for the Oilers.

Chris Frank, D, Western Michigan (CCHA) – 7th round, 152nd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

In the seventh round the Coyotes again went with a rugged stay-at-home defenseman when they selected Chris Frank from Western Michigan University. A punishing force on the back-end, Frank became a dominant defender during his four-year career with the Broncos. While not noted for his offensive prowess, Frank was a good puck-mover who could skate surprisingly well for a player his size. He became one of the hardest hitters in college hockey and was always among the leaders in penalty minutes in the country.

At the conclusion of his senior year, Frank played in 12 games for the San Antonio Rampage where he handled himself diligently. In his 12 games played he registered an assist, was a physical presence, and managed a plus-2 rating.

Frank attended the Coyotes 2009 training camp but has spent the last two seasons with Elmira in the ECHL and is yet to work his way back up to San Antonio.

Benn Ferriero, C, Boston College (Hockey East) – 7th round, 196th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 52

As one of the final players picked in the 2006 draft, Benn Ferriero has certainly turned into a steal, but unfortunately for the Coyotes, he has instead been a steal for the San Jose Sharks. Ferriero was drafted after his freshmen year with the Eagles and despite being awarded as BC’s most outstanding freshman and earning Hockey-East All-Rookie team honors, he was continuously passed up in the draft mainly because of his smallish frame.

Following the draft, Ferriero had an outstanding sophomore season where he finished third in team scoring and earned All-Tournament honors at the NCAA Tournament’s Northeast Regional. Once again he was an integral contributor all over the ice as he and the Eagles went on to capture the National Championship.

Despite his tremendous collegiate career, Ferriero was unable to ink a contract with the Coyotes but was quickly signed by the San Jose Sharks in 2009 and spent that season splitting time between the AHL and the NHL. In 24 games with the Sharks, Ferriero scored two goals and added three assists, while in Worcester he potted 19 goals and finished with 50 points in 58 games.

This year the 23-year-old has begun to cement his status as a full-time NHL player as he has been one of the Sharks most consistent two-way forwards. He currently leads the team with a plus-6 rating and has also chipped in some offense with nine points in 28 games.