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A sit in time a 'Great' decision for Mueller

Monday, 01.07.2008 / 9:16 AM / Rookie Watch

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Peter Mueller scored 47 goals and dished out 89 assists in 103 games over two seasons with the Silvertips.
This was hardly Wayne Gretzky’s way of banishing Peter Mueller to the rafters of Jobing.com Arena for his poor play. Instead, when “The Great One” made the Phoenix Coyotes’ rookie forward a healthy scratch back on Oct. 13, he was doing it with a goal in mind.

Go upstairs.

Watch and learn.

Come back and put that knowledge to use.

“He’s 19-years-old and it’s a real different pace,” said Gretzky, now in his third season behind the Coyotes’ bench. “I said; ‘It’s not like we’re benching you or disregarding you. We just want you to take a step back and sit up top to see how fast this game is.’ ”

Mission accomplished.

As long as Mueller remains healthy, he won’t be appearing in the press box again because the eighth youngest player in the NHL, who is one of only 10 teenagers in the League, is on the fast track to stardom.

Since Gretzky gave Mueller his street clothes assignment in the fifth game of the season, the Bloomington, Minn. native has nine goals and 10 assists while playing right wing on the Coyotes’ top line with left wing Shane Doan and center Steve Reinprecht.

Prior to that 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild, Mueller was playing center and had no points and just two shots on goal through his first four NHL games.

”No one likes to be sat out, and since it was the first couple of games of the season, I didn’t know if I was going to go back to junior after that,” Mueller told NHL.com. “You know, that definitely gave me an eye-opening experience. I hadn’t been playing the way I was supposed to play and doing the things I can do with the puck, but that was an eye-opener to see our coverage and my responsibilities as a forward. That was a good thing for me.”

Mueller is used to the fast track. This is the same guy who sped up his high school education in an attempt to get to the University of Minnesota a year early.

But a funny thing happened on Mueller’s way “The ‘U.” He wound up in, of all places, Everett, Wash.

Mueller, who spent two years in the U.S. National Team Development Program, felt playing in the Western Hockey League with the Everett Silvertips and former NHL coach Kevin Constatine was a better move than going the NCAA Division I route.

“I was planning on going to the University of Minnesota a year early,” Mueller said. “That was the plan until the second year (with the USNDTP), when I decided to go to Everett.”

Mueller scored 47 goals and dished out 89 assists in 103 games over two seasons with the Silvertips. He also finished last year’s World Junior Championships with six points in seven games in leading Team USA to the bronze medal.

“I can’t complain, I’m here where I am with the path I chose,” Mueller said. “It would have been nice playing (college hockey) in my hometown, but going out to Everett definitely helped my game with the team playing a pro-style and playing under a coach like Kevin Constantine. I have no regrets. It was the best path for me.”

Mueller already has made a strong impact with his soft hands and big body. He’s 6-foot-2 and weighs 205 pounds, so he’s very capable around the net.

The Coyotes understandably feel the same way.

Mueller already has made a strong impact with his soft hands and big body. He’s 6-foot-2 and weighs 205 pounds, so he’s very capable around the net. For evidence, watch the highlight of his game-winning goal 6:25 into the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 17, 2007.

As Zbynek Michalek wound up for a shot from the left point, Mueller stationed himself in front of Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who left a rebound in the slot. Biron couldn’t find the puck, but Mueller did and with Flyers defenseman Jason Smith draped on him he was still able to whip a forehanded shot into the net.

“I just did a kind of spin-o-rama and put it in,” Mueller told reporters.

The way he positioned his body on that play, and the sense he had for the puck and the goal, are things the Coyotes have seen ever since Mueller spent his one game in the press box.

“The first time you see him play you realize he has incredible skill, but now as you watch him play you realize how well he uses his body,” Doan told NHL.com. “He has really adapted to the fact that he can use his body for his whole game where in the beginning you just noticed his hands were so incredible. He uses his body now to protect the puck so well. You can see he’s going to be one of those special players.”

One that, according to Doan, has yet to act his age.

The future stars never do.

“Half the battle for a young guy coming into the league is to have a personality that can be cohesive with some of the vets,” Doan said. “Off the ice he’s been incredible, and on the ice he doesn’t seem even close to 19.”

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.



Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

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