Coyotes 2004 draft preview

By Sukhwinder Pandher

Coyotes Top Ten Prospects

1. Keith Ballard, D
2. David LeNeveu, G
3. Igor Knyazev, D
4. Martin Podlesak, C
5. Kiel McLeod, C
6. Jakub Koreias, C
7. Matt Jones, D
8. Tyler Reddenbach, C
9. Joe Callahan, D
10. Lance Monych, RW

Team Needs

With their rebuilding process starting last year, the Phoenix Coyotes are going to give opportunities to the young players. They’re hoping this process allows the team to grow together and form a solid and young core that can contend in several years.

The Coyotes are lacking a physical stay at home defenseman that can pair up with offensive defensemen Derek Morris, Paul Mara, and David Tanabe. Cale Hulse is the only defenseman that fits that category as former first round pick Brad Ference has yet to live up to expectations. Phoenix could also use a center with some size that can play on the first two line, with Mike Comrie and Daymond Langkow both under 6 feet. Jeff Taffe or Krys Kolanos could fill that hole but both are unproven and the Coyotes could turn to free agency to fill it that need.

Organizational Strengths

The trade at the deadline that sent Chris Gratton and Ossi Vananen to Colorado made the defense strength in the Coyotes future. With Keith Ballard acquired in that trade and Igor Knyazev already in the system, the Coyotes are in no short supply of solid two-way defensemen that can make that first pass out of the zone.

The center position is very deep for Phoenix with the prospects like Martin Podlesak and Kiel McLeod possessing the large frames that teams covet at that spot. The Coyotes also have a goalie of the future with David LeNeveu being a strong candidate to tend the Phoenix nets for years to come.

Organizational Weaknesses

Despite the depth at center and defense, the organization is lacking in prospects that posses high-end talent. Many of their prospects are projected to be third line player and five/six defenseman. With the fifth overall pick and another three in the second round, the Coyotes could go a long way to solve these deficiencies. A couple of options at the number five positions are slick play making centers such as Rostislav Olesz from Russia and Robbie Schremp from the OHL.

The disadvantage of having so many young prospects on your NHL team is that a team suddenly loses depth. The Coyotes lack depth at especially the wing positions and drafting power forwards like Lauri Tukonen and Andrew Ladd at No. 5 could go a long way to solving these problems. A mean physical defenseman that can clear the crease could also help the system and Mark Fistric or Jordan Smith could be drafted in the second round to fill this need.

Draft Tendencies

This will be the third draft conducted by the team assembled by owner Wayne Gretzky and GM Mike Barnett. This current Coyotes regime has drafted forwards for all three of their first round picks, one of which is in the NHL (Freddie Sjostrom) and two are considered legitimate prospects (Jakub Koreis and Ben Eager).

Phoenix has had great success in the second round, where they have three picks in 2004, with all three players taken there (Spiller, Podlesak, LeNeveu) expected to contribute at the NHL level. The current scouting staff has yet to unearth a diamond in the rough, with Ladislav Kouba being the closest to that status.

The Coyotes have definitely leaned towards the WHL for their source of talent with 29 percent of their draft picks over the last three years coming from Western Canada. The OHL, US college, US juniors, and surprisingly Switzerland all come in a distant second with only 11 percent of the picks coming from each of those leagues. Although they have only drafted one player out of the Czech Republic, three players from that country were drafted out the CHL. Two countries the Mike Barnett regime has yet to draft players from are Slovakia and Finland.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result):
Andrew Ladd, LW/Calgary Hitmen (WHL)