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by Heath Price-Khan / Arizona Coyotes
Phoenix Coyotes fans have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season with a team that has surprised the experts to the tune of a 16-16-0 record. After a defining comeback win in Philadelphia on Tuesday, where the young Coyotes erased a two goal deficit to win 3-2, this is a team that should be on everyone’s radar as one to watch in 2008. With the holiday season in full swing, highlights some of the many reasons to smile and believe in the positive direction of this franchise.

10. The recent Call-Ups from San Antonio have been fantastic additions to the Coyotes. Keith Yandle found the back of the net in Philadelphia for his first career goal on a play that can only be described as “Brian Leetch-esque.” He showed the great hockey sense that only defensemen with offensive instincts have as he snuck in from the blueline, and delivered a momentum swinging goal from the weak side. In just two games, Yandle already has a +2 rating and has been solid at both ends of the ice.

Joel Perrault has also given the Coyotes a major boost on the offensive end. Along with Daniel Winnik, and Dan Carcillo, he has given the team a third line that has the potential to produce in the offensive zone. In only his 2nd game with the team, he had a monster day at Madison Square Garden where he was named first star with 2 goals and an assist.

Chris Summers
9. If you love hockey, you should be excited about the World Junior Championships. 2007 #1 draft pick Kyle Turris will be on center stage as he leads an exciting Team Canada squad that is loaded with talent. For Team USA, keep an eye on 2006 #1 pick Chris Summers, who will anchor the defense on a team that is made up of great intercollegiate talent. The tournament will run from December 26, 2007 through January 5, 2008 in the Czech Republic with complete coverage of the medal round on NHL Network.
Kyle Turris

8. How about the “College Pipeline” the Phoenix Coyotes have on the way? Kyle Turris is having a fantastic freshman campaign at the University of Wisconsin. His 19 points on 7 goals and 12 assists leads this storied program in every major offensive category.

In Minnesota, 2004 #1 pick (5th overall) Blake Wheeler has them on their feet in Gopherland! The junior forward has the perfect combination of size and speed to make an impact in the NHL. He leads the Gophers in goals with 8, and points with 15. At 6’4” and 215lbs., this guy has power forward written all over him.

While Minnesota and Wisconsin each have one Coyotes’ prospect, no program is more loaded than the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor has become “Coyotes Country” this season with 3 collegiate stars delivering great performances. The Hobey Baker Award (College Hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy) chase is led by 2004 4th round draft pick Kevin Porter who has been stuffing the stat sheets all year. Porter leads the nation in goals with 18 and total points with 29 in only 18 games played. His linemate on the Maize and Blue attack is Chad Kolarik, who has been playing at an All-American level as well. The fellow senior has 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points, which leaves him only 5 points behind Porter. The final member of the Phoenix bound trio in Ann Arbor is the aforementioned Chris Summers, who is just a sophomore, so his arrival may be a little further away.

Dave Strader & Darren Pang
7. We live in a world of massive flat screen televisions and HD coverage which is fantastic, but you still need an announcing duo with chemistry and knowledge to deliver a Great Hockey Telecast. To quote the old R&B classic by Peaches and Herb, “Reunited and It Feels So Good.” Dave Strader enters the booth for his first season as the Coyotes Play-By-Play voice joining former ESPN partner Darren Pang to give FSN Arizona and AZ-TV one of the best announce booth duos in the NHL. Add host Todd Walsh to the mix and this broadcast provides everything you could want: emotion, information, and usually a little comedy. Dare I say, “Holy Jumpin!”

6. If anyone had any questions about whether Don Maloney was the right man for the job when the Phoenix Coyotes hired him this past offseason, they better not be wondering anymore. Most people will point to the acquisition of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov as the biggest move in Maloney’s short tenure. The most intriguing part of that move was Maloney’s reluctance to give up draft picks, or the young assets Ducks GM Brian Burke requested. Patience and a belief in
Don Maloney
developing from within is exactly why Maloney will win an executive of the year award in the near future. When we outline his accomplishments in the rebuilding process of the Coyotes, no move has been more of a steal than the acquisition of winger Radim Vrbata. To give up journeyman Kevyn Adams and get back a scoring forward that currently ranks first on the team in goals with 13 might go down as the trade of the year. Vrbata, a native of the Czech Republic, has been the type of two-way forward that every team craves. On top of his production, he has been a very positive influence on and off the ice with 20 year old rookie countryman Martin Hanzal. While these two moves have defined Maloney’s time with the Coyotes, it may be the moves he has not made that have been most important. You can bet he has received a few calls inquiring about the availability of some of the team’s future and current stars.

Check back to later this week as we countdown the final 5 reasons to be thankful!
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