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Under-the-Radar Players to Watch at Coyotes Rookie Camp

Arizona is competing in four-team rookie tournament in San Jose

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE - Coyotes rookies practiced Friday morning in Scottsdale then departed for San Jose in the afternoon to take part in a four-team rookie tournament as part of the annual training camp staged just for them. 

Mike Van Ryn, who is running the Rookie Camp's on-ice sessions and who will serve as the team's head coach during the rookie tournament games, liked how the players competed on Day 2 of the camp.

"Kudos to them," Van Ryn said. "They worked so hard yesterday and today again. I didn't think we were going to get that kind of pace out of them today. I was real pleased. I thought they worked extremely hard." 

Arizona will play Anaheim on Saturday (7 p.m), Colorado on Monday (7 p.m.) and San Jose on Tuesday (3 p.m.). All three games will be live streamed at ArizonaCoyotes.com.

"I think it will come down to work ethic," Van Ryn said. "Some of the other teams that will be there I think are a little bit older than we are and maybe a little more experienced. For us, we'll try to use our youth and be relentless." 

First-round draft picks Dylan Strome (2015), Nick Merkley (2015), Clayton Keller (2016), and Pierre-Olivier Joseph (2017) are expected to gets lots of ice time in the tournament. So is Christian Fischer, who played seven games for the Coyotes last season.

Meanwhile, some under-the radar rookies also will be looking to impress the Coyotes coaches and management. Here's five to keep an eye on, listed alphabetically: 

Kyle Capobianco
Defenseman
No. 75

Capobianco played his fourth and final season in the Ontario Hockey League last season, then skated in four games for the Tucson Roadrunners, Arizona's affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Management liked what they saw from him at this year's Prospect Development Camp and is eager to see him compete at this rookie camp, his third since being drafted in 2015.

"At past camps I think I've been in awe of all the great players, but this year I'm really trying to make a statement and prove that I belong here," Capobianco said. "I want to show that I can be one of the leaders out here. I've been trying to demonstrate drills and go first and be first in line. I think doing that shows that I'm ready to prove myself."

Jens Looke
Forward
No. 81

Looke is a speedy Swede who, like Capobianco, was picked by the Coyotes in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft.  

"I feel good here and more comfortable than in past years," Looke said. "My goal is to get better every day and to learn more about how to play the game over here. It's pretty different than playing in Sweden. The ice here is obviously smaller."

Looke boasts solid offensive skills, but he knows defense will be key to taking the next step.

"I want to show the coaches here that I'm a good two-way forward," Looke said. 

Hunter Miska
Goalie
No. 1

Miska signed with the Coyotes after posting a 27-5-5 record as a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Duluth last season. He'll likely play in the AHL this season, but reaching the NHL quickly is his goal.

"I feel I'm on top of my game right now," Miska said. "I had a lot of good training this summer."

Miska played goal in Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer league in Edina, Minn., that featured many NHL players including Coyotes center Derek Stepan and defenseman Alex Goligoski.

"Playing in that league helped me big time with my confidence," Miska said. "I played with NHL guys in front of big crowds and made a lot of desperation-type saves. It also helped me with my patience. There were a lot of 2-on-1s in that league, and when they skate in on you they've got a lot more time to fake you. It was a good experience for me."

Lane Pederson
Forward
No. 93

Pederson notched 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) for Swift Current of the Western Hockey League last season, but the Coyotes liked him before that after watching him at last year's Rookie Camp. That's why Arizona signed him to an entry-level contract last October. 

"It's been a long journey," said Pederson, who played for three WHL teams in a five-year span. "I've had a lot of people support me and help me along the way. I'm just going to keep working hard every day to try to get to that end result and hopefully play in the NHL one day." 

Pederson, 20, is eager to prove NHL teams wrong for not drafting him.

"I try to work hard and pay attention to detail," Pederson said. "The big key is taking one day at a time and not looking too far down the road. Right now I'm at Rookie Camp and we've got three games starting this weekend. Like everyone, I'm just looking to put my best foot forward."

Kyle Wood
Defenseman
No. 65

Wood impressed many playing in the AHL last season, his first in pro hockey. Competing for Tucson, Wood was named AHL Rookie of the Month for October, and later was picked for the AHL All-Star Game. He won the hardest shot competition there (99.3 mph).

"I played my first year pro last year and I think that was a big step for me," Wood said. "Coming into this year, I want to show that I can play in the NHL. I want to show the things that I can do well - jump in offensively, work the power play like I can, and show my strength as well."

Wood has set his sights on taking the next step and reaching the NHL this season. That's why he spent the summer working with Skating Coach Dawn Braid, especially on his backward skating.

"At the end of the year the coaches told me that they were really impressed with the offensive numbers that I put up last year," Wood said. "Obviously my shot is a big weapon for me, one of my strengths, and I think the summertime is the time to try and improve on your weaknesses, and that's what I did. I really focused on my skating."

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