Coyotes 2006 draft preview

By Jeff Dahlia

Coyotes Top 10 Prospects

1. David LeNeveu, G
2. Enver Lisin, RW
3. Matt Jones, D
4. Blake Wheeler, RW
5. Martin Hanzal, C
6. Logan Stephenson, D
7. Matthew Spiller, D
8. Keith Yandle, D
9. Kevin Porter, C
10. Daniel Winnik, C

Team Needs

As the Phoenix Coyotes begin to shape their roster for the 2006-07 campaign, they’ll most likely be headed in a direction that brings more cohesiveness and harmony to their roster. Last season’s move to bring in veteran leaders to surround a younger nucleus was pretty much a wash.

The team continued to make many moves to get younger, as well as add skill and ability to their club during the 2005-06 season. During this offseason, most notably the free agent period, Phoenix has some room to maneuver under the salary cap. Expect the Coyotes to add additional help up front, while their young core of defensemen continue to develop. Goaltending shouldn’t be a problem, as the tandem of Curtis Joseph and David LeNeveu should prove to be worthy.

More stability will be needed at the NHL level as their farm system gets stronger. As the lifeblood of any franchise, the prospect core still needs time to develop and grow as a unit. As they continue to add talent, it will take time for some time for the players to grow because only a few may prove near ready to advance.

Organizational Strengths

The Coyotes are not comfortable at any position right now, but if there were one aspect of strength, it would have to be the cache of young mobile and puck moving blueliners. Phoenix is stocked on the blue line up and down the depth charts. Adding Keith Yandle (2005 draft), Zbynek Michalek (trade with Minnesota) and Dennis Seidenberg (trade with Philadelphia) last year only increased the young group’s potency.

Although they have the likes of Derek Morris, Paul Mara, Keith Ballard, Michalek and Seidenberg playing full time in Phoenix, they still have a lot potential in Matt Jones, Logan Stephenson, Matt Spiller and Yandle, who will more than likely start the season with San Antonio, the top minor league affiliate.

Organization Weaknesses

The Coyotes are still looking to stock their shelf when it comes to prospective forwards. Having added such players as Bill Thomas (free agent), Yanick Lehoux (trade with Los Angeles), and Joel Perrault (trade with Anaheim), they will definitely help their offensively challenged farm team. However, none of them are close to seeing steady action in Phoenix with the big club.

After that, there is a dramatic drop off in skill and ability, as the franchise has seen an overabundance in third or fourth line forwards within its system. Some of the more intriguing prospects remain outside their system, currently developing in junior, college or over in Europe.

With LeNeveu set to make his transition to full time with the parent club this upcoming season, the Coyotes attempted to add depth at the goalie position by drafting Pier-Olivier Pelletier during the 2005 draft and traded Calgary for Philippe Sauve. However, the Coyotes haven’t decided whether they’ll sign former UNH goalie Jeff Pietrasiak. Looking ahead to the 2006-07 season, if LeNeveu stays up with the big club, the Coyotes wouldn’t have a goalie prospect in their system. The jury is not out on Pietrasiak just yet, but signing him to a minor league contract may be a wise alternative option.

Draft Tendencies

While the league has again embraced speed, quickness and agility over size and strength, the Coyotes have spent their last three first round picks trying to find a balance between the two. They have selected Jakub Koreis (2002), Blake Wheeler (2004) and Martin Hanzal (2005), who all stand above six feet, are good skaters and each who have a good skill set. Phoenix did not have a first round pick during the 2003 draft.

The Coyotes are becoming very competent in the middle to later rounds, something many teams seem to struggle with every year. With the exception of a few draft picks, the 2004 draft should serve as a model of how the Coyotes should carry themselves past the second round.

Phoenix continues to draft out of North American over Europe. Last year, four of their six picks were from the Northeastern region of America and Canada respectfully. The Coyotes drafted at least one player out of the QMJHL for the second straight year, something they have neglected to since the 2000 draft when they selected Ramzi Abid with the 85th overall pick.

They have neglected the OHL in North America and the Scandinavian region in Europe for the third straight year. Though they have taken a handful of prospects over the last few years out of Europe, the team scouting presence across the pond is small, something they are looking to change.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: Michael Frolik, RW, Kladno – Czech Republic

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