It's funny that every time a team that has a bunch of young players with lots of potential, people say will they be the next Pittsburgh Penguins. Personally, I think that it's hilarious that people make that comparison because not every team can amass the riches that the Penguins did over that time. But I say the closest to that would be the Phoenix Coyotes.
Besides the Penguins, the Coyotes have had probably the most high draft picks of any team, especially of late. With all the prospects making their mark last year along with more prospects expected to make an impact in this year's training camp, this is my guess as to who will be the next "Pittsburgh Penguins."
Coming into last year, the Coyotes looked like the basement team of the Western Cenference, mainly because they had a young defense and no potential starting goalie. The top contenders were Mikael Tellqvist and David Aebischer. But god sent them a gift in Ilya Bryzgalov. He brought stability in the net and helped the team establish themselves as a team with potential.
Then came the prospects.
Peter Mueller was under the radar when it came to NHL prospects last year, but that quickly changed. With Mueller coming in and manning the first line, it finally gave veteran Coyote Shane Doan the help he has long needed, along with the help of a resurging Radim Vrbata of course.
That, along with a great supporting cast of prospects, gave the Coyotes a solid core for the first time since Roenick was in the desert.
Martin Hanzal centered the second line and gave solid performances every night. Danny Carcillo (though very hot-headed) brought toughness and grit to the line-up and with the duo of Daniel Winnik and Craig Weller made the makings of a solid third line.
Finally: on defense. Keith Ballard played a pivotal role as a solid two-way defenseman who worked magic with a veteran Derek Morris. He played a solid defensive game with an unexpectedly good shot from the point. Look for him to be a bigger point-getter in the upcoming season.
With these young players already establishing themselves, and with prospects waiting in the wings, I see great things for this team in the 2008-2009 season
Note: Keep your eyes open for Kyle Turris and Enver Lisin to make big impacts with the big club this year along with Blake Wheeler, Alex Leavitt and goalie Al Montoya making appearances as well.