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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
Granted nobody is keeping official stats, but Coyotes prospect Brett MacLean is turning heads at the team’s ongoing development camp at the Desert Schools Coyotes Center in Peoria.

“You can really see a difference if you gauge how he looked at this camp last year and how he looks now,” said Greg Ireland, who coached MacLean last season in the American Hockey League. “He’s come so far and he’s improved. He looks like a pro out there against boys. He’s taking pucks to the net. It’s really good to see that development.”

MacLean, 20, played 74 games in the AHL in 2008-09 for the San Antonio Rampage, Phoenix’s top affiliate. He notched 21 goals and 19 assists there and was selected to the AHL All-Star Game. A natural goal scorer, MacLean worked hard on his secondary skills – backchecking, penalty killing, shot blocking, etc. – during his first AHL season and gained valuable confidence.

“I knew I had had a good junior career but I knew I had a long way to go and grow, and I think I made great strides last year,” MacLean said after Thursday’s on-ice workout. “I became a more complete player and a better defensive player, and I think it has really helped me so far. In junior, you can be more of a one-dimensional player, but I came here and I knew I had to learn how to compete harder and be willing to play defense if I wanted to play in the NHL some day.”

Like Ireland, Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving has watched MacLean participate with 19 of his peers at the prospect camp and has been impressed.

“His skating is improving,” Treliving said. “He just has that extra step and that little extra maturity and confidence out there.”

MacLean credits his confidence boost to the role he played for the Rampage.

“I got to play a lot of minutes and I was able to build some confidence early in my season,” MacLean said. “The coaching staff helped me a lot with developing my game and everything just clicked for me.”

Despite his success last season, the Coyotes did not call him up to the NHL because they didn’t want to stunt his development.

“That would have been a little much for him,” Treliving said. “He was where he needed to be last year . The AHL is a hard, tough man’s league and I think he really adjusted well there and he played more of an all-around game as the season progressed.”

Ireland said not getting called up to the Coyotes didn’t faze MacLean.

“He really just said ‘hey, there’s a wider scope of how to be a hockey player here (in the AHL) and I’ve got to prove I can do it,’” Ireland said. “ He’s done a real solid job of doing that. He pays attention to detail.”

The Coyotes selected MacLean with the 32nd overall pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After being drafted, MacLean netted 61 goals in 61 games playing for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. He also had 58 assists.

Regarding his future with the Coyotes, MacLean is hoping to turn heads again at training camp in September.

“My goal is to be in as good as shape as I can be and be as confident as I can,” MacLean said. “Hopefully, I’ll make a good run at making the team.”

Other prospects at the camp include defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and forwards Colin Long and Chris Brown.

The players will return to the ice Satuday morning at 9:15 a.m.

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