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Coyotes Drop Puck on Prospect Development Camp

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – The Coyotes officially began their 2011 Prospect Development Camp with a 90-minute on-ice session at Polar Ice in Peoria on Thursday morning.

With General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett watching from the bleachers, the prospects were put through a plethora of drills well-suited for the first day of camp.

Sean Burke (right) works with the goalies on Thursday morning. Photo by Norm Hall.
“Today we were looking for guys to get some of the rust off and just get familiar here with our organization,” said Director of Player Development/Goaltending Coach Sean Burke, who helped run the on-ice workout. “It was a good pace of practice. We realize a lot of these guys haven’t been on the ice that much lately so it’s more of a day to just get your legs under you a little bit. As we move along this week there will be a chance for these guys to learn a lot of different things.”

• Click here to watch a video recap of the first day of camp.

The prospects will also skate at Polar Ice on Friday and Sunday (starting at 10 a.m. both days). In addition, they will hike Camelback Mountain together and go through some grueling firefighter training before leaving town.

And they will bond.

Twenty-eight prospects are at this year’s camp, including 2011 first-round draft pick Connor Murphy, a defenseman.

Forwards Alex Ruuttu and Chris Brown skate on Thursday. Photo by Norm Hall.
“It was really exciting to be able to finally go out on the ice after the whirlwind (at the draft) in Minnesota,” Murphy said. “It was actually a great relief just to be able to have fun and get back on the ice.”

Tippett liked what he saw in Murphy on the first day.

“He looks like a real solid player,” Tippett said “There’s some players that just look like hockey players and he looks like a hockey player... He’s lanky but he’s smooth with the puck. His skill-set is good. His poise is good. He looks like he’s going to be a real good player. It’s just one practice, but I am very pleasantly surprised this morning.”

Tippett also was impressed by center Andy Miele, who signed with the Coyotes at the end of last season after a sensational season at Miami University for which he was presented the 2011 Hobey Baker Award.

“One player that certainly catches your eye is Miele,” Tippett said. “He’s an ultra-skilled guy. He makes a lot of stuff happen out there. Sometimes early, in a practice like this, those are the guys who jump out at you.”

Miele, who is nominated for an ESPY this year, said he is using the camp to showcase his skills. At 5-feet-9, he is the smallest player at the camp. But that is nothing new for him. Nor is thriving with that label.

Center Andy Miele. Photo by Norm Hall.
"I can play a bigger man's role, which is good," Miele said. "It's helped me a lot. It's what some of the teams have liked in me and that's what Phoenix really liked in me. I can compete out there and play a bigger man's game."

Other high-profile players at the camp include goalie Mark Visentin, forward Chris Brown and defenseman Brandon Gormley, who did not skate on Thursday because his equipment still was in transit. Goalie Mike Lee is attending the camp but will not skate because of a minor injury.

Most of the players in camp are draft picks made by the Coyotes in recent years, but there are a few players in camp hoping to turn heads on tryouts.

Every player the Coyotes drafted last month in Minnesota is at the camp, including seventh-round pick Zac Larraza. Unlike his peers, Larraza had a quick commute to this camp; he lives about 30 miles away in Scottsdale.

Playing hockey at Polar Ice in Peoria is old hat for Larraza, but he’ll never forget taking the ice on Thursday wearing Coyotes gear for the first time.

“I’ve skated here since I was four or five years old,” Larraza said. “It was just an incredible feeling coming back (for this camp).”

After the on-ice session, the players returned to Arena for lunch and two hours of fitness testing with Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Mike Bahn.


• VIDEO: Dave Tippett on Thursday

• AUDIO: Connor Murphy on Thursday
• AUDIO: Andy Miele on Thursday
• AUDIO: Zac Larraza on Thursday

• PHOTOS: Day 1 Gallery
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