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DOWN ON THE FARM: WHL

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By: Russell Brooks

PhoenixCoyotes.com takes a look at the Coyotes' prospects currently playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Forward Martin Hanzal has had a spectacular debut season with the Red Deer Rebels.

In his rookie season, the Budejovice, Czech Republic, native has notched 22 goals and 51 assists for 73 points in 53 games to lead his team and all WHL rookies in scoring.

His +15 plus/minus rating is a team high and Red Deer Head Coach Brent Sutter has recognized his leadership, naming Hanzal an alternate captain midway into the season.

During rookie camp with Phoenix in June, Hanzal was told that he needed to use his 6-5 frame to his advantage. The young forward has done just that, along with adding 11-pounds to his frame, becoming effective along the boards in the cycling and in front of the net.

Phoenix Coyotes fans can expect to see Hanzal get a long look in training camp next September.

Another Coyotes prospect making noise in the WHL is Everett Silvertips forward Peter Mueller.

The Bloomington, Minnesota, native almost made the Coyotes squad out of training camp last September, but ultimately was sent back to Everett and hasn't broken a stride since.

Mueller is currently tied for eighth in the league in scoring with Hanzal with 17 goals and 56 assists for 73 points in only 49 games. He currently ranks second in the league in assists and first overall in power play helpers.

The 6'2", 205-pound forward has missed several games this season due to the World Junior Championships, where he represented the United States.

Mueller, who was selected by the Coyotes in the first round eighth overall in 2006, has been named one of the three stars of the game in 15 of the 49 contests he has played in this year with eight of those being recognized as the first star.

His excellent play this season hasn't gone unnoticed by Silvertips Head Coach Kevin Constantine. Mueller has excelled as the first line center and is a major reason the team is 48-10-2, best in the Western Hockey League.

"We really like our young kids in (Peter) Mueller and (Martin) Hanzal, who are both playing really well in the Western League", said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "We're not going to stray away from the guys that we see being here in two or three years when we're a really good hockey club."

Don't be surprised if you see Mueller in the Coyotes lineup in October.

Coyotes prospect, defenseman Jordan Bendfeld of the Medicine Hat Tigers has also improved his offensive game this season.

The Leduc, Alberta, native who was tabbed as a big, defensive-defenseman has produced his best offensive season in three years. His eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points in 67 games are a career best for the Coyotes 5th round (152nd overall) selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

While his offensive game has improved this season, Bendfeld is still a strong force at the blue line. His 132-penalty minute, which includes a dozen fights, are second on Medicine Hat.

Bendfeld has also been able to gain valuable playing time on the Tigers power play. The defenseman has notched 15 of his 27 points on the man-advantage, including four goals.

The 6'3", 230-pound, defenseman has been a fixture on the Tigers' defensive unit, propelling the team to first place in the WHL's Eastern Division.

With a the trio of talented players the Coyotes currently have in the WHL it is easy to see why Phoenix's prospects are considered some of the most promising in the NHL.

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