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Some of Coyotes' young talent ready to step up

Thursday, 08.14.2008 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist


Kevin Porter signed with the Phoenix Coyotes after leading  the Michigan Wolverines to the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four.
The Phoenix Coyotes came up short in their chase for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past season, the fifth time in a row that they've missed the postseason. One major reason they've struggled was that a number of drafts in the early part of the decade have yielded little to no NHL talent.

But the days of few legitimate prospects are gone. The Coyotes went to Ottawa for the Entry Draft already owning one of the NHL's deepest farm systems -- and they may have had the best weekend of any of the League's 30 teams.

First, the Coyotes dealt a pair of defenseman to Florida for center Olli Jokinen and used a pair of first-round picks to bolster what was already a top farm system. With a number of good young players from the last couple drafts also ready to make an impact, the Coyotes appear headed in the right direction.

Here's a look at the Coyotes' player development system entering the 2008-09 season.
     
CENTERS

Kyle Turris -- Phoenix's first pick (No. 3) in 2007 spent one season at Wisconsin, putting up 11 goals and 35 points in 36 games, before signing with the Coyotes this spring and getting one assist in three NHL games. He could make the roster in the fall, though having Jokinen and 2006 first-rounder Peter Mueller may take some of the pressure off.

"Kyle can be a special player," said Keith Gretzky, the Coyotes' director of amateur scouting. "He has speed and skill and a great work ethic. He really wants to win. He can be very special. When you've got a player with all that, it's hard not to like him."

Turris has added size and strength in the year since he was picked and appears ready to make the jump to the NHL.

"When we drafted Kyle, he was about 170 pounds," GM Don Maloney said. "Now he's about 190 and more ready to play. We're really excited about him."

WINGS

Kevin Porter -- After winning the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player and leading Michigan to the NCAA Frozen Four, Porter is ready to take the next step into the pros. He signed with the Coyotes after Michigan's semifinal loss to Notre Dame and played with San Antonio of the AHL after finishing second in the NCAA with 33 goals and 63 points in 43 games. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound left wing is Michigan's all-time leader with 85 goals.

"I really like his game," Maloney said of the Coyotes' fourth-round pick in 2004. "He has a real chance to make it in the fall."

Mikkel Boedker -- The Coyotes' first pick in this year's Entry Draft (No. 8) had 29 goals and 73 points for Kitchener in the Ontario Hockey League and helped the Rangers make the Memorial Cup championship game. He could also make the NHL this season, according to Gretzky.

"He was one guy we really targeted, due to his speed and skill," Gretzky said. "When you're trying to play an up-tempo game and rely on forechecking, you've got to have that. He fits the bill. He's so strong on his skates, and he's 200 pounds of solid muscle. You never know what can happen in training camp, and there are jobs to be won here."

Viktor Tikhonov -- He's named for his grandfather, a Soviet coaching legend, but Tikhonov has spent much of his life in California, where his dad worked for a number of NHL and minor-league teams. At 20, he's older than most draftees, having been passed over twice before prior to this year's selection with the No. 28 pick. But he was one of the most improved forwards in the Russian Super League, where he had 12 points for Cherepovets. He also was second in scoring on Team Russia at the World Junior Championships with seven points (five goals, two assists), but was named best forward and made the all-tournament team.

"He has good skills, and his work ethic is something that really impressed the whole scouting staff and management," Gretzky said. "We want that type of player on our hockey club. He may need a year in the minors, but we have openings, and if you outplay the other guys, you'll stay."

Brett MacLean -- The Coyotes have high hopes for the 20-year-old left wing, who was their second-round choice in 2007. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder comes off a 61-goal, 119-point performance in 61 games with Oshawa in his final junior season. He signed with Phoenix in late April and will try to earn a job with the Coyotes, but is more likely to spend at least a season in San Antonio.

"He's got to get into it right off the hop," Gretzky said of MacLean's hopes of making the parent club this fall. "He's got to show what he can do and play with confidence. He's strong on the puck and can score goals, and everyone these days is looking for goal-scorers."

Alex Bourret, a former Thrashers first-round pick, had nine goals and 33 points for the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack.
Alex Bourret -- The Coyotes landed Bourret, a first-round pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005, in a second-day deal with the New York Rangers at the Entry Draft. Bourret, a 5-11, 205-pounder, had nine goals and 33 points for Hartford of the AHL last season, missing time after a training camp injury. The 21-year-old is a strong skater and has good offensive skills, but has to show more consistency.

DEFENSE

Nick Ross -- The Coyotes traded up to get Ross with the last pick of the first round in the 2007 Entry Draft. He completed his fourth and final junior season, then signed with Phoenix and played four AHL games with San Antonio, earning one assist.

Ross was never a big scorer -- his eight goals and 47 points this season with Regina and Kamloops of the OHL were career highs. His 115 penalty minutes showed he has the toughness the Coyotes are looking for on the blue line, and the trade that sent defensemen Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard to Florida has created some openings on the blue line.

"He's very, very calm with the puck -- maybe too calm," Gretzky said. "He's got to pick up his intensity and play with emotion every shift. If he does that, he has a chance to make the club. We have some openings on defense."

Chris Summers -- The Coyotes picked Summers No. 29 in the first round in 2006 as a defenseman, but his future could be up front. The 20-year-old is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and has spent the past two seasons at the University of Michigan alongside Porter. He also was on Team USA at the World Junior Championships last winter.

"Summers is going back to Michigan and we've moved him to forward," Gretzky said. 
   
GOALIE

Al Montoya -- The Coyotes acquired Montoya from the Rangers (where Maloney had drafted him in 2004) at the trade deadline. The former No. 6 pick had been expected to be the Rangers' starter by now, but had been shunted aside by Henrik Lundqvist in 2005 and appeared to be blocked. He played in San Antonio of the AHL after the trade and was 24-14-3 in his combined season. Montoya, who re-signed with the Coyotes this summer, is still just 23 and could wind up spending another season in the AHL if he can't beat out Mikael Tellqvist for the backup job behind Ilya Bryzgalov.



Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level