After a resurgent year for the Coyotes, they are ready for the 2008-2009 seasons with a plethora of young players. Starting in the pre-season they will be testing and toying with line combinations not only for this coming year but for the future of the franchise as they will be one of, if not, the youngest team in the NHL this year.
Kyle Turris leads the cast of kids that will be starting this year. With already 3 NHL games under his belt from the end of last year Turris will step in and be relied on to help boost an offense that was somewhat anemic last year. The 3rd overall pick of the 2007 draft is an early favorite for the Calder Trophy.
Next to him, the Coyotes' first 1st rounder from this year, Mikkel Boedker will be expected to match with Kyle. The two have already become very good friends and have been together on the ice since the beginning of the summer at prospects camp. Boedker's skill and speed is exactly what the Coyotes have been looking for coming down the wing and he will certainly be garnering a spot next to Turris if the chemistry between them develops into something special.
While those two guys are definite, there are a few prospects who should make it but no one is 100% sure if they will. Kevin Porter, last year's Hobey Baker award winner, will be expected to make the team after being the best college player last season. It is unsure where he would play, but Porter is a very good two way forward, almost like Chris Drury. The Coyotes will be looking to him for a defensive presence and to put some points up in the bottom six of the Phoenix Coyotes.
The other player who is not a definite that the Coyotes are hoping to add is their second first round pick this year, Viktor Tikhonov. The big winger has shown some chemistry with Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik in camp this year and will certainly get plenty of chances to prove to Wayne Gretzky and the rest of the coaching staff that he belongs on this team. Reports have come out that he will return to Russia if he does not make the Coyotes roster. Better to just make it and not have to worry about the problems that playing in the KHL can bring to a young player.
The defense will come with a new look as Kurt Sauer and David Hale look to make an impression in pre-season. Veterans Ed Jovanovski and Derek Morris will be the leaders on the blue line as Zbynek Michalek, one of the most underrated young defenseman in the NHL, will look to have a break out season in the desert. The last blue line spot is still up for grabs with youngster Keith Yandle looking to snag it.
The Coyotes dropped their pre-season opener 6-4 to the Los Angeles Kings but are looking to improve. They play Calgary tonight in Winnipeg, MB and then go on to play:
Certainly a tough preseason schedule as the Yotes will mostly be playing division rivals but a good test before the season begins. If they are looking to meet their goal of a playoff birth, they will have to have success against these teams in the regular season. Beating them in the preseason is always a good start.