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The Desert Dog Blog: Five Players to Watch at Rookie Camp

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- The 2010-11 season is just around the corner now. I know this because the Coyotes will open training camp for rookies on Friday, with the prospects taking the ice inside Arena for the first time on Saturday at noon.

            Dave Vest
   Twitter: davest4yotes
Things will move quickly from there as the Coyotes will host the Los Angeles Kings for rookie games on Sept. 14 (at 6 p.m.) and Sept. 15 (at 2 p.m.). Both games are open to the public. Veteran players will report to camp on Sept. 17 and skate for the first time on Sept. 18.

More than two dozen prospects will attend the rookie camp hoping to turn heads before the vets report. (A complete roster of rookie camp players will be released later this week).

Here are five rookies I am planning to watch closely, listed in alphabetical order:

1.Oliver Ekman-Larsson: The Coyotes are eager to see how the 19-year-old Swedish defenseman adapts to playing on the North American surface. Ekman-Larsson, whom Phoenix selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, played the past two seasons for Leksand IF, a club in Sweden's second-highest professional league. In that league, he displayed eye-catching skating and puck skills, and proved he could compete with and against players who are much older than he is.

► Click here to read about how Ekman-Larsson excelled at the 2010 Coyotes Prospect Development Camp.

2.Maxim Goncharov: Like Ekman-Larsson, Goncharov is eager to prove he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL this fall. The 21-year-old Russian defenseman has gained valuable experience playing in the KHL the past two seasons. Goncharov clearly has the physical attributes to play in the NHL, but he, too, will need to focus on adjusting to the North American game.

3.Brandon Gormley: The Coyotes were thrilled when Gormley, a Canadian defenseman, was available when they picked 13th at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. The Coyotes won’t rush the 18-year-old's development, but I’m told Gormley will be watched closely – especially in the rookie games – to see just how close (or far) he is to being NHL ready.

► Click here to watch an interview with Gormley at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

4.Philip Lane: The Coyotes snagged the American winger in the second round of this year’s draft. He longs to be an NHL power forward, and he appears to have the size and mental approach to be just that. Lane’s a project, but look for the 18-year-old to deliver some hits in this camp, especially in the games vs. Los Angeles.

► Click here to watch an interview with Lane at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

5.Chris Summers: Summers is a 22-year-old American defenseman who finished a four-year career at the University of Michigan last spring. His mobility and maturity – he was Michigan’s captain – excite the Coyotes. Summers got a small taste of pro hockey when he played six games in the AHL at the end of last season.  

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney tells me that negotiations between the team and unsigned restricted free agent Martin Hanzal are ongoing and that the sides are closer to reaching a deal today than they were two weeks ago.

The sides spoke at length on Sunday.

“We’re fairly close but we’re not there yet either,” Maloney said. 

On the plus side, Maloney said Hanzal is in the Valley and is skating voluntarily with some of his teammates and other pros at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale.

     Kyle Wellwood
The Coyotes have invited free-agent center Kyle Wellwood to attend training camp on a tryout basis.

Wellwood, 27, has played 338 NHL games (for Toronto and Vancouver) and has notched 63 goals and 97 assists.

“He’s a clever, creative player who’s a little bit intriguing,” Maloney said. “We were weak on the power play last year and he’s a smart player who could help us there so we’ll give him every opportunity to come in here and win a job.”

Reach Dave Vest at and follow him on twitter at davest4yotes.
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