Before this month, Ethan Werek
’s only connection to the Coyotes was that he used to play junior hockey with General Manager Don Maloney’s son. On Thursday, Maloney officially became his boss as the Coyotes signed Werek, 19, to an entry-level contract less than two weeks after acquiring him in a trade with the New York Rangers.
Werek, a center, was a little surprised to learn he’d been dealt to Phoenix for center Oscar Lindberg on May 8, but is very eager to join a team like the Coyotes.
“I’m really excited to be part of this organization,” Werek said. “I’m hoping to come to training camp and make a statement that I’m really fit and play hard and play strong. Obviously my goal for this year is to be a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. But it’s a tough league to make at my age, so I may have to start in the AHL. If that happens, my goal at all times will be to work hard to become an NHL player.”
Werek and Lindberg both were selected in the second round of recent NHL entry drafts. New York chose Werek at No. 48 in 2009 with the compensatory pick it received after the tragic death of Alexei Cherepanov, a first-round pick in 2008. The Coyotes grabbed Lindberg at No. 57 at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
After being drafted, Werek played two more seasons with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League. In 104 games those two seasons, he notched 54 goals and 61 assists.
“Things went pretty well the last two years,” Werek said. “I ran into some injury trouble; the first year after I was drafted I had a knee injury and this year I had a wrist injury. Other than the injuries, things went pretty well. I got the chance to play in an amazing city and had a lot of fun there. Now I’m ready and excited to turn to my pro career.”
Werek said his biggest asset as a hockey player is his work ethic.
“I will always work hard and I will never give up on a play. With that, I have developed my skills pretty well.”
A fan of Jaromir Jagr, Werek said he prides himself on getting into the hard areas on the ice and winning battles, and, like Jagr, using his size to dominate opponents.
Maloney said he made the deal for Werek because he feels the organization needs to add size at the center position. Werek is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds; Lindberg is 6-0, 187.
“I know (Werek) personally and I know his personality, and I think he has the skill and the compete to score at this level,” Maloney said. “… As far as I was concerned, getting a bigger centerman into our system was a no-brainer.”
Ironically, Werek just visited Phoenix for the first time about a month ago when he came to play golf with some friends. Based on that experience, he said can envision himself living in the Valley during a hockey season.
“It’s a beautiful place and the weather was amazing,” Werek said. “The people were cool, too. I would definitely have no trouble fitting in there.”
Werek is eager to return to the Valley. He will get that chance in July when the Coyotes host their annual Prospect Development Camp.
Asked if he thinks his path to the NHL will be shorter with the Coyotes than it would have been with the Rangers, Werek said: “It doesn’t really matter what franchise you are with. I think every player has to pave his own path. Wherever I am I will try to play my best and prove to them that I am ready to be an NHL player.”