Since Dave Tippett became Phoenix Coyotes coach in 2009, they have relied on a strong veteran core of Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan, who has established himself as one of the best leaders in hockey. While the vets perfected Tippett's system and established the Coyotes as one of the NHL's most consistent clubs, an impressive group of prospects developed in the minors.
Now that Tippett is looking to reshape the team's scoring lines following a disappointing 2012-13 season, this should be the time those prospects get a chance to star.
"I think there are some guys who are going to come in and really push for jobs," Tippett told NHL.com. "This will be the most competitive training camp in my four years in Phoenix. We're really looking forward to see the levels these young players can get to."
Here's a look at Phoenix's top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:
1. Chris Brown, C: If there is one player ready to make the leap to the NHL, it may be Brown. The Texas-born University of Michigan product enjoyed a standout first season in the American Hockey League in 2012-13. Brown led AHL rookies with 29 goals in 68 games. That performance earned him a five-game NHL stint, when he averaged 7:38 of ice time per game and failed to produce a point.
The second-round pick (No. 36) in 2009 always has shown the ability to score. But at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Brown, 22, could provide size and scoring, two things missing from the Phoenix roster much of last season.
2. Max Domi, C: The son of longtime NHL player Tie Domi, Max was Phoenix's top pick (No. 12) at the 2013 NHL Draft and has been getting attention from team brass ever since. Playing with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Domi showed the ability to make highlight-reel plays. That, coupled with a strong performance at the Coyotes' rookie camp, has made him a contender to make the team as an 18-year-old.
"I think the plus in Max's situation is he'll probably be 195 pounds when he shows up at training camp," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told NHL.com. "He has excellent speed and a creative mind. How can we not give him every opportunity to make the team? Max has it all, other than the fact that he's still 18. Max will have every opportunity to make this club."
An 82-game NHL schedule could be challenging for Domi (5-9, 197). But if he doesn't make the Coyotes, he'll still be in a great situation: He'll return to a London team that is guaranteed a third straight trip to the Memorial Cup as the event's host in 2014.
3. Lucas Lessio, LW: Since starting his OHL career with the Oshawa Generals in 2010, Lessio has demonstrated the ability to score. His 34 goals as an 18-year-old tied for the team lead, and the Ontario native collected 34 points last season despite a hand injury that limited him to 35 games.
A second-round pick (No. 56) in 2011, Lessio (6-1, 206) enjoyed a short but strong audition with the Portland Pirates, the team's AHL affiliate, during which he collected a goal and an assist in five regular-season games before contributing two points in three playoff games.
"Lucas Lessio really impressed us at the end of the year in Portland," Maloney said. "[He's a] big, strong-skating winger."
4. Brandon Gormley, D: The 13th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Gormley enjoyed a celebrated career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He then barely skipped a beat in his first full AHL season in Portland in 2012-13 when he had 29 points, among the AHL's highest totals for rookie defensemen.
A featured part of Canada's bronze-medal team at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, Gormley was the lone Canadian selected to the tournament All-Star team.
Gormley, 21, likely needs to add some muscle to his 6-2, 196-pound frame. But that's the only thing lacking from a player the Coyotes will consider adding to this season's roster.
5. Mark Visentin, G: With Mike Smith signing a six-year contract extension this summer, Visentin won't get a shot at taking over the Phoenix net anytime soon. But he remains one of the top goaltending prospects in the game.
During the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, few junior goaltenders boasted the kind of stats Visentin had. The first-round pick (No. 27) in 2010 was named the OHL's top goaltender in 2011, then went 30-9-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a league-high 10 shutouts with the Niagara IceDogs.
Last season, his first in the AHL, the 6-2, 195-pound 20-year-old showed the ability to adapt to the pro game, going 15-12-1 with a 2.98 GAA. He was named AHL Player of the Week for the first week of January, including a 48-save, 2-1 win Jan. 2; it was the most saves in a game by a Portland goaltender in almost a decade.
6. Henrik Samuelsson, C: Phoenix's first-round pick (No. 27) in the 2012 NHL Draft, the Arizona-born Samuelsson has shown a nifty scoring touch along with a nasty streak that was the calling card of his father, longtime NHL player and former Coyotes assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson.
After being groomed by the United States National Team Development Program, then playing with the fabled Modo club in the Swedish Hockey League, Samuelsson (6-3, 216) enjoyed a breakout performance last season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. The 19-year-old finished third on the team with 80 points, then had 19 points in 22 playoff games to lead the team to the WHL final, where it lost in six games to the Portland Winterhawks. His 11 postseason goals were the third-highest total in the WHL playoffs.
7. Connor Murphy, D: The son of longtime NHL defenseman Gord Murphy, Connor has shown the all-round tools the Coyotes coveted when they made him the 20th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Since then, however, Murphy (6-3, 190) has encountered a series of injuries, undergoing two knee surgeries, including one procedure to fix an injury sustained during his gold medal-winning performance with the American team at the 2013 World Juniors.
When he has been healthy, Murphy has shown a winning touch, also boasting a victory at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Fully recovered from his most recent knee injury, the 20-year-old heads into training camp hoping for a roster spot, but in all likelihood he'll be groomed in the minors.
8. Laurent Dauphin, C: A solid all-round player throughout his lone season with Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dauphin showed great scoring touch, with 25 goals and 57 points in 62 games with the Sagueneens. It was enough to convince the Coyotes to pick him with their second-round pick (No. 39) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Dauphin (6-foot, 165) has the look of a player who could fit seamlessly in Tippett's system, but his best performance may have been for Canada at the World Under-18 Tournament in Sochi, Russia, in April. On a squad that won the tournament with a 3-2 victory against the United States in the gold-medal game, Dauphin's four goals ranked second. What's more, his 65.62-percent success rate on faceoffs was third-best in the tournament.
9. Louis Domingue, G: It's rare that a team that just gave its franchise goaltender a six-year contract extension would have two top prospects in net, but the Coyotes find themselves dealing with that unique predicament. Visentin has posted outstanding numbers throughout his young career, and Domingue has almost matched him save for save.
Domingue, 21, started his QMJHL career with the Moncton Wildcats but was traded to the Quebec Remparts, where he was groomed by goaltending great Patrick Roy, who at the time was the team's owner, general manager and coach. A fifth-round pick (No. 138) in 2010, Domingue (6-3, 199) backstopped a competitive Remparts team before shining as a pro last season, first with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL then briefly with Portland.
10. Andy Miele, C: The forgotten man in all this discussion of prospects making the jump could be the oldest member of the group. Miele is 25, but he's shown a lot in a short amount of time.
The Michigan native won the 2011 Hobey Baker Award as the top Division I player while attending Miami University, then signed as a free agent with the Coyotes. In 2011-12, his first professional season, Miele led the Pirates with 38 assists. He then led the team last season in assists (34) and points (53).
Though he's performed well in the AHL, the undersized forward (5-9, 175) has appeared in eight NHL games with Phoenix over two seasons and failed to register a point. This summer, the Coyotes signed him to a one-year extension, likely giving him one last shot to make the squad.
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