really likes what he sees when he looks over the Coyotes’ depth chart for netminders. The goaltenders coach says that’s the main reason he agreed to a multi-year contract extension on Tuesday.
“I think this group has the biggest upside of all the groups I’ve coached since I’ve been here,” said Fuhr, who joined the team before the 2005-06 season. “They are all very talented and they are young.”Ilya Bryzgalov
(28), Mikael Tellqvist (28), Al Montoya (23) and Josh Tordjman (23) will battle for two jobs at training camp, and Fuhr is looking forward to watching the quartet compete.
“I’m excited about the goalies we have,” Fuhr said. “Obviously, Bryzgalov is a world-class talent and we’re extremely fortunate to have him. But we’ve got four guys who are going to push each other to be better. And there are no (job) guarantees. The guys who play the best in training camp are the guys who are going to end up with the jobs, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Bryzgalov, of course, likely will earn the starting job.
The Coyotes plucked the former Anaheim Ducks backup off the waiver wire on Nov. 17, 2007 and made him the starter for the rest of last season. He went on to set career-highs in victories (28), shutouts (three), goals-against average (2.44) and save percentage (.920).
“We still have to get the best out of him,” Fuhr said. “It’s just a matter of getting him to go from being not counted on every day to realizing that he’s going to be counted on every single day. He played a lot of hockey last year that I don’t think he was used to playing, and towards the end of the year he may have gotten a little tired mentally, which wears you down physically. So, I have to make sure that he is prepared to play a lot of hockey and be good every night.”
Fuhr liked having Tellqvist around to spell Bryzgalov.
“Tellqvist is a very good NHL goalie and a very underrated NHL goalie,” Fuhr said. “He had a very good year last year, and each year he’s gotten better and better. When he got to play last year, he stepped in and he played very well and really didn’t have any bad games. That’s what we have to have. We have to have a guy that when he does step in, he can win us a hockey game, and ‘Telly’ gives us that.”
Montoya will be attending his first Coyotes training camp in September after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers in February. “He’ll get a good look in camp,” Fuhr said. “He’s a big guy who has a big upside to him. He had a good career at the University of Michigan and he was drafted in the first round (sixth pick in 2004). I think getting out of New York is going to give him a fresh look at things, and he may step in and be a great goalie for us.”
Tordjman turned heads by posting a 22-14-4 record in the American Hockey League last season with a 2.65 GAA and .910 save percentage. He also ranked third in the AHL with a 1.85 GAA during the playoffs.
“Each year he’s developed more and more, and we’ve had the luxury of letting him develop a little bit where now he can come into camp and he can push to stay,” Fuhr said.
Joel Gistedt of Sweden and one other goalie likely will be at training camp.
Fuhr is eager for the season start. “I think we’ve got a phenomenal young group of guys who are going to go somewhere in the near future, and it’s fun to be a part of,” Fuhr said. “This is a team that’s going in the right direction. That was the biggest thing for me (regarding signing the extension). This team has been getting better and better, and we expect the team to make great strides this year.”
The Coyotes also signed two new scouts on Tuesday.
Gord Pell was hired as an amateur scout and Robert Nordmark was hired as a European scout.