Coyotes training camp preview

By Jeff Dahlia

Last time this year, the Phoenix Coyotes watched as Keith Ballard, Zbynek Michalek, Fredrick Sjostrom and David LeNeveu, all prospects, made the team out of training camp. Of the three, only LeNeveu was returned to San Antonio in order to get steady playing time.

As the Coyotes get ready to kick off their NHL camp this year, they’ll once again have a lot of their prospects vying for a roster spot. However, reality is that unless Phoenix unloads some players in the next few weeks, the roster is going to be pretty hard to crack. At best, maybe only one or two prospects will have a shot at starting with the club come Oct. 4 when the season opens.

Starting in goal, the Coyotes are hoping that they can get another productive season out of Curtis Joseph. If this is the case, expect Phoenix to test LeNeveu early on, but more than likely send him back to San Antonio to play fulltime and to establish himself as a winner and leader in the A.

The Coyotes have a lot of short-term options beside LeNeveu when it comes to the goalie position. They have Philippe Sauve and Mike Morrison who are capable of backing up Joseph, but they’re more committed with the development of LeNeveu for the long haul.

The team has a pretty solid blue line heading into the season. In hindsight, it’s not too safe to say that anyone’s job is secure, but chances are slim that one of the prospects will make that much of an impression to take over a full-time slot.

If you had to name a couple players who have the skill and talent to make the team, a safe bet would be to look at Matt Jones and Keith Yandle. Matt Spiller is also another prospect who should be vying for the seventh man role. He lost a lot of ground in the latest Coyotes top 20 rankings, but he may close out his prospect period a lot stronger than it was originally speculated.

Up front, the Coyotes have a few slots they could fill with prospects. Look for Enver Lisin, Bill Thomas, and Joel Perrault to be some of the front-runners early on. The Coyotes are obviously very interested with two of their recent first round picks Peter Mueller and Martin Hanzal. Expect the both of them to get a sniff at main camp, but ultimately, the consensus has them going back to the WHL.

Phoenix signs four prospects

Phoenix added depth to their system this summer by signing prospects Kevin Cormier, Yandle, Lisin and Logan Stephenson.

Kevin Cormier spent the past two seasons in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, solidifying himself as the league’s top enforcer. In his two-year junior career, he amassed a total of 437 penalty minutes, while scoring 18 goals and 16 assists in a total of 129 games played. With the Coyotes adding other enforcers in Josh Gratton, Georges Laraque and recently signing Ryan Flinn, expect Cormier to start the season in the ECHL.

Yandle comes to the Coyotes after spending a single season with the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL. The solid two-way defenseman turned in an all-star performance, earning QMJHL and CHL Defenseman of the Year honors. As far as this season is concerned, he’s got the talent to play in the NHL, but the realistic move has Yandle playing in San Antonio, growing with the Coyotes core group of prospects.

The club signed Lisin back in June, while many wondered how the Coyotes were able to get the speedy winger because of the absence of transfer agreement between Russia and the NHL. He was able to secure his release from Ak Bars Kazan as long as he paid for his release. The Russian team did not block Lisin’s move and he was allowed to pay for his release over a period of time.

Lisin has an outside chance to make the Coyotes but may need a season in the AHL to make a solid transition to the North American game. While he’s got top-end skill and can make dazzling plays at top speeds, he needs to concentrate on building his confidence and making solid calculated plays within a new system. Obviously, it all depends on how fast he can integrate himself.

And finally, the team locked up Stephenson, who’s been putting in a solid junior career with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. He’s a mobile, punishing defenseman who should make a seamless transition into the pro arena. He has the opportunity to return to the Am’s for his overage season, but he will likely start his pro career with San Antonio in the AHL.

Parting Ways

The Coyotes did not negotiate entry-level contract with forwards Aaron Gagnon, John Zeiler, Roman Tomanek and goalie Jeff Pietrasiak this offseason.

Gagnon is a former 2004, eighth round selection who has played the last four seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. There has been mild interest in Gagnon over the summer from other clubs, but he has yet to land a contract. Currently, Gagnon in tuning for his overager season with the T-Birds, and he’s skating in the 2006 Traverse City Rookie Tournament for the Dallas Stars.

Zeiler was selected in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. He skated at St. Lawrence University until his senior season, but left abruptly for an undisclosed reason. He has since signed with the Los Angeles Kings and makes his debut for them this week in the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament.

Tomanek started the 2005-06 season on a positive note skating with the Seattle Thunderbirds and leading the team in scoring early on. It was nice to see such a positive transition after he returned from a separated shoulder that limited him to only 19 contests during the 2004-05 season when he skated with the Calgary Hitmen. Instead of finishing strong on an average team, Tomanek ended last year on a disastrous note. Seattle suspended him for violating a team rule (one that would not be discussed), and the Slovakian was shipped out of the Emerald City and sent home.

After completing his senior season at the University of New Hampshire, all Jeff Pietrasiak had left to do was to come out west to the Coyotes training camp and impress the brass. Like everyone else in his shoes, he was hoping to gain an entry-level contract, but it seems Phoenix had the jump on another young goalie and signed Josh Tordjman, who played last season with Victoriaville Tigres before getting traded to the Moncton Wildcats to help them for a stretch run at the QMJHL and CHL titles.

Fourth Annual Pacific Division Rookie Tournament

The Coyotes kicked off the fourth annual Pacific Division Shootout yesterday with a 6-5 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks at the Toyota Training Center in El Segundo, CA. The Kings are hosting the tournament, which includes Anaheim as well.

Their roster includes Matt Jones, Olivier Latendresse, Bill Thomas, Daniel Winnik, Pier-Olivier Pelletier, Logan Stephenson, Kevin Cormier and Keith Yandle. The Coyotes also list Liam Lindstrom, Martin Latal, Jordan Bendfeld, Martin Hanzal, Peter Mueller, Enver Lisin, and Josh Tordjman, all who are making their debuts playing under team’s crest.

In order to fill out the remainder of their roster, the club has invited a group of young free agents who could be playing for a contract with Phoenix. Here’s a look at the list:

2006 Invitees

Andy Sertich, LW (Minnesota – NCAA)
Kris Hogg, LW (Lethbridge – WHL)
Kyle Wilson, C (Colgate – NCAA)
Ryan Garlock, C (Windsor – OHL)
Mike Prpich, RW (North Dakota – WCHA)
Frank Rediker, D (London – OHL)
David Pszenyczny, D (Mississauga/Barrie – OHL)
David Schlemko, D (Medicine Hat – WHL)

Tournament Schedule

Friday, September 8
4:00 p.m. – PHX 6, SJ 5
7:00 p.m. – LA 6, ANA 5

Saturday, September 9
4:00 p.m. – Anaheim vs. Phoenix
7:00 p.m. – Los Angeles vs. San Jose

Sunday, September 10
Practice Day

Monday, September 11
4:00 p.m. – Anaheim vs. San Jose
7:00 p.m. – Los Angeles vs. Phoenix

Tuesday, September 12
4:00 p.m. – Consolation Game
7:00 p.m. – Championship Game

*All times Pacific
** Tickets are $10 each day, which allows you access to both games

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.