Phoenix Coyotes 2011 draft preview

By Andrew Sykes

Photo: Having taken goaltenders like Mark Visentin (pictured left) and defensemen with their last three picks in the first round, the Coyotes are likely to select a forward in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D
2. Brett MacLean, LW
3. Brandon Gormley, D
4. Chris Summers, D
5. David Schlemko
6. Viktor Tikhonov, RW
7. Maxim Goncharov, D
8. Chris Brown, LW
9. Mark Visentin, G
10. Michael Stone, D

Team Needs

The Coyotes are desperately lacking skilled forwards within their prospect pool. While they do have some solid potential role players like Jordan Szwarz and Viktor Tikhonov and developing power forwards in Chris Brown and Phil Lane, there isn’t a player who fits the mold of an elite point producer, particularly at center. Newly-acquried Ethan Werek has taken over as the club’s top prospect down the middle but he is the only center in the system with realistic NHL aspirations at this point.

The Coyotes NHL roster isn’t exactly loaded with star centers either. Kyle Turris has yet to develop into the player the Coyotes thought he would when they drafted him with the third pick in the 2007 draft but he still remains the club’s only potential front-line center.

Organizational Strengths

The club’s biggest strength continues to be on the blue line with a host of players performing well in both the NHL and the AHL. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Schlemko played the bulk of their seasons with the Coyotes while the likes of Chris Summers, Maxim Goncharov and Michael Stone had successful seasons as first-year pros with the San Antonio Rampage. 2010 first-rounder Brandon Gormley will now be added to the mix and will compete for a spot on the big club next year.

Goaltending has also become a strength thanks in part to superb seasons turned in by the organizations top three goaltending prospects. OHL goalie-of-the-year Mark Visentin along with Mike Lee and Louis Domingue have given the Yotes some stability between the pipes going forward; something that became even more important with the recent trade of the franchise’s best player Ilya Bryzgalov.

Organizational Weaknesses

As mentioned, the Yotes are lacking an elite offensive center as well as a skilled, scoring winger. The club’s forward prospects throughout the minors and in junior have started to improve but the overall depth of talent has to be considered a weakness at this point. A lack of NHL-ready forwards is another major weakness right now, as Brett MacLean and Viktor Tikhonov are the only forwards on track to play in the NHL within the next couple of years.

Draft Tendencies

In the past few years Phoenix has made a concentrated effort on building strength defensively. Since 2006 they have drafted four defensemen in the first-round, with two of those coming in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brandon Gormley were the two selections in those respective years and they are now the club’s top two defensive prospects.

The last time the Coyotes drafted a forward in the first-round came in 2008 when they snagged both Mikael Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov, but with this year’s early-round talent far heavier on forwards, look for Phoenix to be more forward-oriented in this year’s draft.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result

No. 20: J.T Miller

Phoenix badly needs a skilled center and Miller fits the bill. He possesses the size, skill, and speed that the Coyotes have been lacking and is also an extremely hard working player at both ends of the rink.