Coyotes 2002 draft evaluation

By Jeff Dahlia

Of the 11 players selected from the floor of the Air Canada Centre in 2002 by the Phoenix Coyotes, only four have seen action in the NHL. At this point and time, Matt Jones appears to most likely be the only player to have any sort of impact at the level over the next few years.

The 11 picks have totaled 193 NHL games, for an average of 18 NHL games per pick.

Jakub Koreis, C
(1st Round, 19th overall, HC Plzen – Czech)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games: 0

After his selection in the summer of 2002, Jakub Koreis reported to the Guelph Storm of the OHL. He had a decent rookie campaign in his only year in junior. While he probably would have benefited from another year with Guelph, he made the jump to the AHL.

Playing the past three seasons with the Coyotes AHL affiliates, Koreis’ development has been slowed playing on stagnant teams. Noted as a strong two-way player, there is some hope that he has figured the North American game out and could make the NHL roster as a strong third of fourth line centerman within a year or two.

Ben Eager, LW
(1st Round, 23rd overall, Oshawa Generals – OHL)
Status: NHL player
NHL games: 88

The selection of Ben Eager this high in the first round was probably one of the biggest question marks in the Coyotes strategy. The rugged winger was once thought to possess a lot of offensive upside. He has yet to display that quality or substance. Eager left the organization when the Philadelphia Flyers traded Mike Comrie to the Phoenix for Sean Burke, Branko Radivojevic and his rights.

Eager is still the rough and tough winger who thrives in gritty play. He is poised to remain with the Flyers as a hardworking, in your face style of player. He will continue to be noted for that more so than his offensive touch.

David LeNeveu, G (2nd Round, 46th overall, Cornell University – NCAA)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games: 21

David LeNeveu set the college world on fire during his freshman and sophomore years at Cornell University. During his second season, he guided the Big Red to their first Frozen Four in 23 years. As a sophomore he surpassed NHL Hall of Famer and Cornell alumni Ken Dryden as the ECAC/Cornell all-time leader in shutout victories. He ended the season as a Hobey Baker finalist.

Showing so much promise and poise under fire, the Coyotes were able to get LeNeveu to leave the comfy confines of college life. He has continued his development within the Coyotes system for the past four seasons and has had two brief stints with the Coyotes. While he has come along slower as anticipated, much can be argued in his case, as the AHL teams he’s backstopped have generally been below average at best.

The talent and ability remain in LeNeveu. Now that the Coyotes have new leadership at the General Manager position, he may get a chance to test his wares in the NHL full time.

Joe Callahan, D (3rd Round, 70th overall, Yale University – NCAA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

Another player who had success early on in his collegiate career, Joe Callahan left school in pursuit of NHL dreams. He joined the Coyotes AHL affiliate at the end of the 2003-04 season and has remained in the top development league ever since.

Callahan is a strong-noised defensive defenseman who hasn’t had the swiftest of transitions, as he or the organization would have hoped for. He has slowly bettered himself over the last two years, but does not appear ready for the NHL anytime soon.

Matt Jones, D
(3rd Round, 80th overall, University of North Dakota – NCAA)
Status: NHL player
NHL games: 61

To date, Matt Jones has been the ace of the pack. After remaining in school for his entire four years of eligibility, Jones came out a polished, hard-working, mature defensive defenseman. In his first two professional seasons, he has seen time in both the NHL and AHL. As of last season, he saw more playing time with the Coyotes and has continued to make a solid transition. 
Jones is a strong-skating blueliner whose positional play and hockey sense are hard to duplicate. He’s a very astute player who can thrive in all situations. Definitely a steal in the third round, Jones should be a regular come the 2007-08 season.

Lance Monych, RW
(4th Round, 97th overall, Brandon Wheat Kings – WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

After flourishing in the WHL with Brandon on an overly talented Wheat Kings team, Lance Monych looked to be another later round steal. Once he hit the pro ranks though, Monych’s game flat out evaporated. He was unable to make the transition from junior straight to the AHL. He has since been stuck in the ECHL and shows no signs of ever finding his touch.

John Zeiler, RW (5th Round, 132nd overall, St. Lawrence University – NCAA)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games: 23

John Zeiler left St. Lawrence University early during his senior year and joined the Coyotes AHL affiliate towards the end of their 2005-06 season.  Phoenix opted not to sign him to an entry-level contract during the summer thus making him a free agent. The Manchester Monarchs were quick to snatch up Zeiler,signing him to a contract for the 2006-07 season.

Playing with the Monarchs, Zeiler proved to be a constant force within the LA Kings system. His tenacious play, strong two-way game and presence down low earned him a lot of attention from the Kings brass. He was subsequently signed to a one-year contract last February and finished out the season with Los Angeles.

His game translates into a fourth line energy player who should be able to chip in a small share of points in a limited role.

Jeff Pietrasiak, G
(6th Round, 186th overall, University of New Hampshire – NCAA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

Jeff Pietrasiak had some bright spots in his career as a Wildcat with the University of New Hampshire. He finished with solid numbers but couldn’t help to carry the team over the hump in postseason play.

Not confident his game had enough promise at the pro level, the Coyotes walked away from Pietrasiak. He spent the 2006-07 season with the reading Royals in the ECHL and put up average numbers. He also earned limited contracts with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears in the AHL.

Ladislav Kouba, LW
(7th Round, 216th overall, Red Deer Rebels – WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

Ladislav Kouba had the size and tenacity coming into the system after he signed an entry-level contract. However, he lacked maturity and consistency in his game and never developed into the player the Coyotes anticipated.

After playing out his junior career with the Red Deer Rebels, he never caught in at the AHL or ECHL level. While saying he has prospered in the CHL might be a reach as well, but Kouba seems to be able to play at that level with no problems.

Marcus Smith, D
(8th Round, 249th overall, Kitchener Rangers – OHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

The Coyotes did not express any interest in Marcus Smith at the signing deadline. He reentered the 2004 draft and went unselected. He finished out his junior career with the Kitchener Rangers. Smith used his college scholarship and joined York University team in the CIS. Though he had two years of college eligibility left heading into last season, he wasn’t listed on the team’s roster as of last year.

Russell Spence, LW (9th Round, 280th overall, University of Alaska-Fairbanks – NCAA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games: 0

Russell Spence is another player who the Coyotes walked away from at the signing deadline. Like Smith, he reentered the 2004 draft and went unselected. He was dismissed from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks team following the 2002-03 season and bounced around the ECHL and UHL for two years. During the 2005-06 season, Spence found himself playing in Germany with the Rote Teufel Bad Nauheim in the Oberliga.

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