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Coyotes hope prospect Gormley can make an impact

by Corey Masisak

The Phoenix Coyotes have picked in the top five of the NHL Draft twice in the past nine years, but Blake Wheeler and Kyle Turris aren't at the top of any fan favorite lists in the desert -- both orchestrated an exit from the franchise's control.

Missing on two premium picks like that can devastate an organization, but the Coyotes have reached the playoffs for three straight seasons and still boast an interesting collection of prospects. Young, homegrown players Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle, Martin Hanzal and, going way back in the draft, Shane Doan, have been part of the core group while general manager Don Maloney has filled in the parts around them.

Here's a look at the top prospects in the Phoenix organization:

Note:'s cutoff for prospect status is 20 League games, so that is why David Rundblad is not on this list (he'd be No. 2).

Despite missing time due to injury over the last two seasons, Gormley has tallied 80 points a combined 82 games over that span. (Aaron Bell/ CHL Images)

1. Brandon Gormley, D: Gormley was the 13th pick in the 2010 draft, and while he's retained his elite prospect status, his two seasons since being selected have been stunted by injuries. He missed time in 2010-11 with a knee injury and a chunk of last season because of a foot problem.

When healthy, Gormley has been one of the top players at his position in junior hockey. He has played a total of 82 regular-season games at that level in the past seasons combined, and he's racked up 23 goals and 80 points.

Shawinigan traded for Gormley in a blockbuster Quebec Major Junior Hockey League trade. The foot injury limited him to only seven playoff games during the Cataractes' run to a Memorial Cup title, but he had five goals and seven points.

The Coyotes have enough NHL-caliber bodies on the blue line to let Gormley start the season in the American Hockey League (he played four games for San Antonio in 2010-11), but there could be an opportunity for him to make an impact at the NHL level at some point in this coming season.

2. Connor Murphy, D: Murphy was Phoenix's first-round choice (No. 20) in the 2011 NHL Draft. After two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., Murphy joined the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting last season.

He's also dealt with a myriad of injuries the past three seasons, including a knee injury that delayed the start of his first OHL season. Murphy ended up with eight goals and 26 points in 35 games.

A native of the Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio, he helped the United States to a gold medal in the 2011 U-18 world championships and could represent his country in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship after taking part in the national team's evaluation camp earlier this month.

"He's looked strong," Maloney told "He's 100 percent healthy and able to participate in this camp, which is great for us and great for him. ... One of the positives about not playing, having the injuries he's had, he's been able to train, and physically he looks a lot thicker to me."

Murphy will return to Sarnia this season and hope for both better health and a chance to play in the WJC.

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3. Michael Stone, D: The Coyotes are pretty well set one through five on the defensive depth chart this season, but that sixth spot could end up being up for grabs in training camp. Stone played 13 games for Phoenix in the regular season and earned a sweater twice during the Coyotes' postseason run.

Stone was a third-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. After four years with Calgary in the Western Hockey League, He has spent most of the past two seasons with Phoenix's AHL affiliate. He had 40 goals and 126 points in his final two seasons in the WHL, and had nine goals and 22 points in 51 AHL contests this past season.

Stone might be the slight favorite to grab the sixth, though he will face competition from David Schlemko, Chris Summers and possibly Gormley.

4. Mark Visentin, G: Phoenix's second pick in the first round of the 2010 draft (No. 27), Visentin has logged back-to-back 30-win seasons for Niagara in the OHL. He had 10 shutouts last season and boasted the lowest goals against average in the league at 1.99 while helping the IceDogs to a division title and the OHL finals.

Visentin has taken part in the past two WJCs for Canada, with mixed results. He began the 2011 tournament as the backup to Oliver Roy, but won two knockout-round games to get the Canadians to the gold-medal contest. However, he allowed five third-period goals in that game as Russia rallied to win.

At the 2012 tournament, he started the first game for Canada, an 8-1 win, before Scott Wedgewood pitched a shutout in the second contest and started the next four games. Visentin replaced Wedgewood in the semifinal loss to Russia, but it was certainly not the tournament he expected on a personal level.

Visentin will join the Coyotes' AHL affiliate in Portland this season, and could face competition for the starting job from fellow prospect Mike Lee and AHL veteran Chad Johnson. The two guys in goal for Phoenix, Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera, are not signed past this coming season.

5. Brendan Shinnimin, C: Shinnimin went undrafted early in his career with Tri-City of the WHL, but he had a strong 2010-11 and then erupted for 58 goals and 134 points last season. That total was the most in any of the three major junior leagues in Canada.

He signed as a free agent with Phoenix in March during his monster season. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Shinnimin was an overage player last season, turning 21 in January, but the numbers are hard to ignore.

There seems to always be more room for offensive talent in the desert, but expect Shinnimin to begin his professional career with Portland. He'll still have to prove he can produce against older players, but if he does the Coyotes may have nabbed a late bloomer.

6. Henrik Samuelsson, C: Ulf's son was born in Pittsburgh, when his father was a rugged defenseman for the Penguins, but played some youth hockey in the Phoenix area when Dad was an assistant coach for the Coyotes. Henrik Samuelsson has had stops with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Swedish hockey powerhouse Modo (where his father was the coach) and the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL in the past two seasons.

He was Phoenix's first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft in the city where he was born. Samuelsson's brother, Philip, is a defenseman in the Pittsburgh organization, but Henrik is a 6-foot-3, 216-pound forward who could bring some of the family nastiness to the other side of those post-whistle crease battles.

Samuelsson had 11 goals and 37 points in 45 games for the Oil Kings after returning to North America. He should settle in with Edmonton for another season, and a fast start could get him back into contention for a spot on the U.S. squad for the 2013 WJC – like Murphy, he attended the evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., but he was one of the 11 guys cut midway through.

7. Chris Brown, LW: Brown grew up in a suburb of Dallas, but hockey was his sport of choice from the beginning. His father played hockey at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a Division II school northeast of Pittsburgh.

He spent two years in Ann Arbor with the USNTDP, then decided to stay for college. Brown had 34 goals and 80 points in three seasons at Michigan before deciding to skip his senior year and sign with the Coyotes.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, Brown could be an NHL-caliber power forward with a bit more seasoning. Expect him to start his professional career with Portland.

Maxim Goncharov is expected to compete for a spot on the Coyotes' blue line this season. (Getty Images)

8. Maxim Goncharov, D: After parts of four seasons with CSKA Moscow, Goncharov came to North America and has been willing to spend two full seasons in the AHL – a rarity among Russian-trained players. He had six goals and 15 points in 61 games two years ago, but last season Goncharov had only one goal and four points in 45 AHL games.

He did spend some time with the Coyotes, but never earned a spot in the lineup. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, there may still be some more offensive potential to flesh out -- Goncharov had seven goals in 47 KHL games in 2008-09 and added five in six WJC contests that season.

Goncharov will be another of the defensemen hoping to battle for that sixth spot, but he might be a long shot to start the season with Phoenix at this point.

9. Jordan Martinook, C: Martinook had been passed over in the NHL Draft before, but the Coyotes tabbed him with the 58th pick in June after a strong season with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. He had only 11 goals and 28 points in his first season with the Giants, but improved to 40 goals and 64 points in year two.

Martinook is listed at 6-feet and 202 pounds, but his junior coach compared his ability to score off the rush to ex-Giants Milan Lucic and Evander Kane. He could return to Vancouver as an overage player, but he's eligible to play for Portland this season as well.

10. Andy Miele, C: Miele spent four years at Miami of Ohio and had a monster senior season (24 goals, 71 points in 39 games). He became one of the top undrafted free agents in his class, and the Coyotes landed his services in March 2011.

Listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Miele has faced the same questions about playing in the NHL that every diminutive kid has faced. He was scoreless in a seven-game trial with the Coyotes last season, but he did lead Portland in points with 54 (including 18 goals) in 69 games.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22

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