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Training camp in the National Hockey League is used for a variety of purposes. The number one reason is to get the players ready for the upcoming season, whether it is in the NHL, American Hockey League (AHL) East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) or perhaps in a junior league such as the Western Hockey League (WHL). It's also an opportunity to see the prospects in the organization and those who could one day serve as the next "face" of the team.
When the Coyotes held their rookie camp in July, the team officials noted who they thought played well and invited them to Phoenix to play with the "big boys," in September's official NHL training camp. Not everyone invited to camp makes the team, but it is a great opportunity for a player to showcase his talent and make a name for himself with Coyotes brass.
Enver Lisin and Keith Yandle were two of those players who stood out during training camp and when defenseman Keith Ballard and center Steven Reinprecht were injured, the two Coyotes rookies were told they were being recalled to Phoenix.
In addition to Lisin and Yandle, two other young players that impressed the Coyotes coaching staff throughout training camp were Peter Mueller and Martin Hanzal.
Mueller, a first round pick, (eighth overall in the 2006 Entry Draft) came close to making the Coyotes final roster, but Phoenix opted to let him continue his development by returning him to the Everett Silvertips (WHL).
"Sometimes it's best to just send him back (to juniors) have another good year and then re- eval uate the situation next training camp, " said Eddie Mio, Coyotes Director of Player Development.
So far the 18-year old Mueller has 10 points in seven games for the Everett Silvertips and is a regular contributor on the power play. Last season with Everett, Muller, a center, scored 58 points (26 goal, 32 assists) in 52-games, prompting the Coyotes to take him with their first pick in the draft.
Standing at 6'2", 201-lbs., the Bloomington, Minnesota native was one of the last cuts by the Coyotes during training camp.
"We're happy with his skill level, we're glad to have him," said Mio. "Could he play for our team? Absolutely, and we're looking forward to it in the future.
"There's still a lot of things we need to work on with Peter Mueller, but we're very, very satisfied with what we saw in training camp."
Mio travels around North America to watch and spend time with the prospects in the Coyotes organization and recently from a trip in which he saw Mueller play.
"He was good, he anchors the power play very, very well and at times it seems that he can do anything he wants in that league, we want him to do that every night," said Mio. "(We want him to) play to his level and increase the value and the level of play in his teammates around him."
Mio will head back to Everett to see Muller play in three games in November. He'll keep a keen eye on the young center and monitor his progress in the early goings of the season.
Martin Hanzal is another player that caught the Coyotes eye during training camp. At 6'5" 208 lbs, the Czech native is a hard man to miss when he is on the ice. Drafted in the first round, 17th overall in the 2005 draft, Hanzal quickly made a name for himself this summer.
Just 19-years of age, Hanzal is a rookie in the WHL and is tearing up the league. In his first 13 games, Hanzal was second in the league in scoring with 23 points (7 goals, 16 assists) with a + 5 rating playing for the Red Deer Rebels.
"A lot of kids start out great and tail off," said Mio. "We have to make sure that Martin starts off great and stays steady and stays consistent, and that's my job."
Throughout his career as an amateur, Hanzal has not put up numbers that one would go bonkers over, however, Mio says there are reasons to that, and people are now able to see the type of player the scouts thought he was when he was taken in the first round in 2005.
"He never got to play in the past," added Mio. "When he played in the Czech league, he was only getting two shifts a game and it was on the fourth line. Then he played in juniors and it was again on the third and fourth line and he did not get a lot of ice."
Mio says that there are a few things that Hanzal needs to work on to improve his game; in fact all of their young prospects have a few things they need to improve on.
"This year is about consistency, playing 60-minutes, playing hard, he's not going to have a great game every game, but he has to learn to come to the rink and play his hardest and that's the thing we have to (emphasize) with a lot of our kids, and even our pros."
So far this season the Coyotes have called up five rookies, Keith Yandle, Enver Lisin, Donald MacLean, Matt Jones and David LeNeveu. Fortunately for Coyotes fans, the talent in the pipeline, led by players like Mueller and Hanzal, is among the best in the league and will help keep Phoenix a dominant team in the Western Conference for years to come.