This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Wild Magazine.
Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle has the sturdy frame to withstand the high expectations that come from being a first-round pick in the NHL. Now 24 years old and coming off his first career 20-plus goal season, the Boston native appears primed to make the next big step in his hockey career.
It started with the hiring of Bruce Boudreau as the Wild's new coach last spring. Coyle, who had shuffled between the wing and center each of the last several seasons, would find a home at right wing.
Boudreau has had success with bigger forwards in Anaheim, and the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Coyle certainly qualifies in the size category.
But Coyle isn't some lumbering big-body, as Boudreau learned quickly after watching him play.
Video: MIN@BOS: Coyle puts slow-moving puck past Subban
"You get big guys that can skate, and you're way ahead of the game," Boudreau said. "Charlie can do that, and he's a powerful guy. He's a prototype power forward, and I think the more he realizes that, the better he'll be."
In some ways, Coyle is still trying to discover what kind of NHLer he can be. Because he made his professional debut at age 20, it seems like Coyle has been in the League for a long time.
But in reality, Coyle may still be a year or two away from truly reaching his prime as a hockey player. One of the Wild's hardest workers in the weight room, Coyle has also been perfecting his frame so that he can become a premier power forward.
One of the most difficult things any young player struggles with is consistency, and Coyle has been no different.
There have been stretches during each of his seasons in the NHL where Coyle has looked ready to take the next step in his game, only to see spells where the production dries up.
Those down times must become fewer and further between, he says.
"When that stuff starts to creep in, we need to fix it faster," said Coyle, who has three goals and four assists heading into Thursday's game at Pittsburgh. "In previous years, we let it creep in and by that time the problem is too big. We have to notice those problems right away and fix them before they get bigger."
While waffling between center and wing certainly hasn't helped, Coyle says finding a way to be more consistent in his game was his primary goal for this season.
"I think there's still more to give," Coyle said. "Not that I'm not giving it, but chemistry wise, with the line and stuff, just getting used to it. You're not going to play a perfect game, but you keep building and building and create that consistency each day."
Learning Up Close
While becoming more consistent is a process, Coyle has received an up-close look at two Wild veterans early in the season, playing on a line with left wing Zach Parise and center Eric Staal. Each has been one of the most consistent offensive players of the last decade, both in the NHL and on the international scene.
Expecting Coyle to put up 30 goals (like Parise has six times in his career) or score 70 points (like Staal has done seven times) may be a bit much, but he says there's no reason why he can't approach those types of numbers if he finds a way to constantly be at his best.
"It raises my game level up too," Coyle said. "Knowing we have to produce, it's not just being on the line and hanging out, I [need] to contribute and be a force too. Playing with them, making plays and making that chemistry, it's nice. You learn from them. You always have to be ready for the puck."
"I think you can learn from anybody, all the time," Boudreau said. "The biggest thing is he knows he's playing right wing all year, he's not moving in and out. He can focus on learning that position as well as he can."
On The Edges
Where Coyle's game has always been strong is along the walls. Over the years, he's been one of the few bodies on the Wild's roster with the size and the want-to to do the dirty work along the boards, crashing into a pile of bodies and seemingly coming out with the puck more times than not.
With him now regularly on the wing, the Wild hopes Coyle can become one of the best players in the League in that regard.
"It's invaluable," Boudreau said. "Hockey is a game of one-on-one battle,s and if you win more one-on-one battles than the other team, usually you end up winning [the game]."
No Longer a Kid
Despite being around for five seasons now, Coyle is just 24. But his equity in the League no longer affords him the opportunity to be "one of the kids."
Video: LAK@MIN: Coyle's backhand finds the back of the net
The same goes for players like Jonas Brodin, Nino Niederreiter, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker.
"We know we aren't considered young anymore," Coyle said. "These guys I came into the league with, it's our fourth or fifth year in the league. We understand that.
"I'm just trying to do my job and maintain the same focus, same energy and same mindset every day. I think that's the main thing."