Is there anyone on the planet that doesn't think the Coyotes vastly improved their look a couple of years ago when they ditched the Picaso-esque desert scheme for the current look? The old jerseys were just too busy, too hard on the eyes, but the brick-red and white versions of today are so good that Hockey Canada used versions for their National team (changing the colours but basically the same striping and style). The shoulder patch here is top quality too.
1st pick last year: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Leksands, SEL) - Larsson looked great at the World Junior Championship in Saskatoon this year and will have a great chance to crack the Coyotes line up in September if he comes across the pond. There are concerns from some scouts about his durability and desire last year, but Phoenix wasn’t worried and snapped him up 6th overall.
The Good: Keith Yandle ( 105th overall, 2005) - Yandle had his best NHL season this year scoring 12 times and adding 29 assists. He also had 5 points in the Coyotes 7-game loss in round one. That is pretty good production from a 4th round pick in 2005. Martin Hanzal also deserves consideration as he’s become the solid 2-way centre Phoenix thought he was, but might have a little more offence then some people believed.
The Bad: Nick Ross (30th overall, 2007) - The final pick in the first round has yet to touch the ice as a member of the Coyotes in the regular season. Ross was never an offensive defenceman but you would think he might have more then 4 points in 55 pro games. Ross isn’t that big for a blueliner at 6.01 and under 200 pounds, and unlike his younger brother Brad, who will be drafted this year, he doesn’t play an overly physical game.
The Unknown: Kyle Turris (3rd overall, 2007) Kyle Turris should never have turned pro in 2008. He played just one year at Wisconsin of the NCAA before joining the Coyotes. He was rushed, but atleast the organization realizes their mistake and are trying to correct it. Turris didn’t play a game in the NHL this season, and had ok numbers in the AHL with 24-39-63 in 76 games. He needs to get stronger if he’s ever going to be an impact player at the NHL level.
Coming Down the Pipe: Along with Turris Phoenix has some nice prospects on the way. The great Dane Mikael Boedker (photo: NHL.com), Victor Tikhonov along with sniper Brett MacLean all were given a year to develop in the AHL and KHL. Goalie Mike Lee could end up being a great value pick at 91st of the 2009 draft. Boedker could be in line for a promotion next season.
Draft Trends: Phoenix is all about variety. Their last 5 first rounds picks all hail from a different country. Hanzal in 2005 (Czech Republic), Mueller in 2006 (USA), Turris in 2007 (Canada), Boedker in 2008 (Denmark) and Ekman-Larsson in 2009 (Sweden).
Dean Millard: Vladamir Tarasenko (Novosibirsk) - Tarasenko was Russia’s most skilled player at the World Junior Championship, but like most wearing the national team colours at times lacked passion. Tarasenko is an east west skater who isn’t the fastest but is shifty enough to get to the money spots. After taking the safe route with a "safe pick" earlier in the first round, Phoenix gambles with the Russian who will finish out his KHL contract before deciding on North America.
Guy Flaming: Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw) - The Coyotes went a long way this year with grit and heart while allowing their skilled future to mature on the farm. Howden's production doubled over his previous season, he has size and character plus the speed to keep up with Phoenix's top prospects making him a natural addition to the organization.