Top 10 Prospects in the Phoenix Coyotes System: Forwards
As the NHL season continues to be delayed due to the lockout, many of the young prospects in the Phoenix Coyotes organization are getting ready to begin their seasons at the junior, college or minor league levels. Many of these players might be a couple of years away from breaking in at the NHL level, but are seen to have tremendous promise as future NHL players.
This slideshow will give a breakdown of the top 10 offensive prospects in the Phoenix Coyotes farm system.
No. 10: Jordan Szwarz
Jordan Szwarz is a talented young right wing who spent last season with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. The 21-year-old forward played in 58 games and posted seven goals and 13 assists in his first year of professional hockey.
The 5'11", 195 lb. Szwarz is a gritty player who has a knack for finding the net. He amassed 70 goals for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League from 2008-2011. Seen as a draft steal by some, Szwarz is known for having an outstanding work ethic and he will continue his play with the Portland Pirates this season looking to impress the Coyotes brass, who will have more time on their hands to inspect their minor league affiliates.
In my opinion, Szwarz is still a few years away from making a contribution for the Coyotes. He would be ideal on a third or fourth line a couple of years down the road.
No. 9: Ethan Werek
Ethan Werek has shown the potential to be a potential dynamic goal scorer with the Coyotes in the future. The 21-year-old center played last season in Portland, and in 67 games, scored 10 goals and gathered nine assists in his first year of professional hockey.
The 6'2", 208 lbs. forward is seen as a quality two-way player with above-average size. His is also regarded highly for his knowledge of the game and his ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Werek had a stellar junior career. He averaged 60 points a season with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League from 2008-2011. While he lacks top-end speed, his size and two-way play give him a leg up on others in the system based on what Dave Tippett expects out of his centers.
No. 8: Scott Arnold
Scott Arnold is an offensively capable right wing whose style of play fits in with the Coyotes responsible style of play.
The 23-year-old winger will get the chance to play in Portland this season as he seeks to crack a lineup that will be full of talent.
Arnold played his last two seasons at Niagara University in upstate New York. He was able to put together two solid seasons for the Purple Eagles, scoring 26 goals and 40 points in 67 games.
The 6'2", 195 lbs. winger plays physical and has a cannon of a wrist shot. His play this season for Portland will be pivotal in his development and his attempt to crack the Coyotes roster in the near future.
No. 7: Alexander Ruuttu
Ruuttu is a slick-skating winger that tends to play with a defense-first mentality. His hockey knowledge and his smooth skating ability has already gotten the attention of the top teams in Europe as he plies his trade with Jokerit Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League.
The 6'1", 171 lbs. forward is still a bit raw and unpolished, but many feel that his game will translate well to the NHL once he physically matures and adds more muscle to his frame. The 19-year-old winger comes from a good pedigree (his father Christian is a former NHL player) and will continue to improve his game in Europe this coming season.
Last season, Ruuttu split 36 games amongst three teams. He played for Jokerit Helsinki at the Elite and Junior levels and spent some time in the Finnish Second Division with Kiekko-Vantaa. He racked up nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in those contests.
Ruuttu is at least two years away in my opinion from making his debut for the Coyotes. He will have to step up his game in Europe to show the Coyotes brass that he is worthy to make the jump to the NHL or the AHL in North America.
No. 6: Philip Lane
Lane is another of Phoenix's physical young forwards that Dave Tippett covets for his style of play. He has shown soft hands and the ability to score points as he has used his size to put up decent numbers at the junior level in Canada.
The 6'2", 203 lbs. right wing loves to hit and use his body to place himself in good scoring positions around the net. He is seen as a potential late bloomer in terms of his offensive skills and will have a chance to prove himself this year in Portland, as he will see his first professional action in the AHL with the Pirates.
For the last three seasons, Lane played in the Ontario Hockey League with Bramford. He amassed 50 goals and 57 assists for 107 points in 171 games. He also racked up 259 penalty minutes, showing that he is not afraid to mix it up physically, something that the Coyotes truly need out of their future crop of youngsters.
No. 5: Jordan Martinook
Big things are expected of Jordan Martinook. The 20-year-old left wing from Canada stormed onto the scene last year by scoring 40 goals for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.
The 6'0", 202 lbs. forward is versatile, spending some of his time also playing center. His sturdy build allows him to play the game physically, and he uses his frame to get him into advantageous positions around the net. He does also have good hands and is a quality passer of the puck.
His production on the power play is an added bonus that will make him a player to watch in the future, as the Coyotes have always seemed to struggle with the man-advantage.
For the last two seasons, Martinook has played with Vancouver of the WHL. He has scored 51 goals and collected 41 assists for 92 points in 144 games with the Giants. He also racked up 147 penalty minutes, showing the physical prowess he is known for.
This season, Martinook will be in Portland with the Pirates in the AHL.
No. 4: Lucas Lessio
Lessio is a speedy winger with good size. He is a versatile, young player who can either play a finesse game or ramp up the physicality when necessary. His goal-scoring numbers during his youth point towards the vast potential that many see in the young Canadian forward.
The 19-year-old left wing is a proven point producer at the junior hockey level. For the last two seasons, Lessio has plied his trade with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. In 132 games for the Generals, Lessio has amassed 61 goals and 55 assists for 116 points.
This season, Lessio has already scored 12 points in his first nine games with Oshawa and looks to put together a massive season to impress officials from Team Canada in the hopes of winning a spot on their Under-20 roster.
The 6'1", 206 lbs. forward likes to play on the power play and has seen success with the man advantage. Tippett will like his versatility and offensive production as Lessio looks to crack the roster within the next two or three seasons in Phoenix
No. 3:Andy Miele
Andy Miele is the prototypical case of a guy who gets overlooked because of his physical size. The 5'9", 180 lbs. center has been told his whole life that he is too small to play with the big boys. He continues to prove his doubters wrong.
Miele is supremely gifted with an extremely high skill level as an offensive player. His passing is elite level, but it's his ability to surprise goaltenders by making the unpredictable play that allows him to flourish as a playmaker. He has excellent vision and a quick, accurate wrist shot.
In 2010-11, Miele attended the University of Miami-Ohio, where he would go on to be named the Hobey Baker Award winner, college hockey's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. His senior season was stellar. He scored 24 goals to go along with 47 assists for 71 points in only 39 games for the Redhawks.
He was signed as a free agent by the Coyotes and spent last season with Portland of the AHL. In Portland, Miele scored 16 goals and collected 38 assists for 54 points in 69 games. In a brief seven-game stint with the Coyotes last year, Miele got a taste of what the NHL was all about and will look to make the squad out of camp this preseason.
Don't be surprised if you see Miele up permanently with the Coyotes this season once the lockout ends.
No. 2: Brendan Shinnimin
Shinnimin is another who uses his small stature to make him extremely efficient on the ice. The 5'10, 185 lbs. center is extremely versatile. He can play on the power play, where he can use his vision and passing prowess to help out with the man advantage. He can also penalty kill, using his tenacity and will to help his team when they are a man down.
He can use his speed and shiftiness to create space that allows him to take advantage of his ability to score big goals. He is good in the faceoff circle and works very hard to be defensively responsible
For the last five years, the 21-year-old played for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Over that five-year span, Shinnimin has posted gaudy statistics. In 267 games, he scored 131 goals and dished out 206 assists for 337 points.
He was named the CHL's Player of the Year last season after scoring 58 goals and collecting 76 assists for 134 points in only 69 games. Shinnimin's job now is to show how that will translate towards playing with older more experienced players in Portland of the American Hockey League.
The 'Yotes are going to count on the diminutive duo of Shinnimin and Miele to provide offensive playmaking for the Coyotes in the near future.
No. 1: Henrik Samuelsson
Samuelsson sits at No. 1 on this list based on a combination of size, grit, pedigree and potential to grow as a player. The physical right wing has proven at a young age that he can be a force with the puck in front of the net and in the corners.
The 18-year-old from Pittsburgh is the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson and plays a lot like his father. His tenacious demeanor combined with relentless determination overcompensates for the fact that Samuelsson is not a top-level skater.
Samuelsson played the 2010-11 season with the US National Team Development Program. The Pittsburgh native posted solid numbers with the U17 and U18 teams. He scored 15 goals and collected 20 assists for 35 points in 54 games with the developmental team.
Last season, he split time with the Modo organization in the Swedish Elite League and with Edmonton of the Western Hockey League. He played 15 games with the Senior Modo team and recorded two assists in a league that is viewed very highly by those in the hockey world. His game improved in Edmonton, where he played in 28 games with the Oil Kings registering seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.
The 6'3", 216 lbs. forward has a good hockey IQ and possesses a good offensive skill set already. With time, his soft hands will get better and his finishing and skating can improve. Many experts feel that he will be a major contributor down the road for the Coyotes.