Well, even with no hockey scheduled for the foreseeable future, we're going to soldier on with a look at some of the Coyotes' best prospects. The goaltending situation for the Phoenix Coyotes has probably the fewest questions heading into the 2012-13 season. Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera will be the NHL level tandem to start the season barring some horrific preseason calamity. But that doesn't mean the Coyotes' goaltending prospects won't be seeing new territory this year. Read on for more about the organization's depth in goal and where they will likely begin their seasons...Chad Johnson - The Coyotes acquired Johnson via free agency after he left the New York Rangers organization. Johnson has so far been a career AHLer, but has seen limited action in both 2009-10 (including one game against the Coyotes) and 2010-11, as an emergency third goaltender whenever Henrik Lundquist and/or Martin Biron were unavailable. Johnson will likely play the same role here in Phoenix in the event Smitty or Barbs gets injured. He has a large frame and is very economical and efficient in his movement in the crease, but can give up some bad rebounds.
Mark Visentin - The 27th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has some pretty high expectations. Visentin was named the OHL goaltender of the year in 2010-11, and went 30-9-2 in with a 1.99 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 40 games in 2011-12 for the Niagara Ice Dogs. Visentin is more widely known in Canada for his appearances in the World Junior Championships. In 2011 he was widely derided for allowing 5 goals in the 3rd period of the Gold Medal game to allow Russia to beat Canada. He turned the tables in 2012, when he shut out Finland in the Bronze Medal game to avoid an embarrassing 4th place finish, a performance which includes one of the most miraculous saves of all time. He embodies many of the characteristics that have made Mike Smith successful, with good size, athleticism, and a calm demeanor in net. Oh, and he can score too.
Louis Domingue - Domingue played major junior hockey with both the Moncton Wildcats and the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Last season Domingue went 23-8-4 with a 2.61 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Like Visentin, Domingue is only 20 years old, so he has plenty of time to factor into the future of the Coyotes. He describes his style of play as very similar to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury, with athleticism and plenty of size at 6' 3". His game is more of a work in progress than Visentin's, but he also stands a good chance of finding a spot with one of the Coyotes minor league affiliates.
Mike Lee - While many Coyotes fans are familiar with Visentin and Domingue, Mike Lee figures to play a major factor in the team's placement decisions after training camp. At 22, Lee is the oldest of the Coyotes three goaltending prospects, and saw substantial time as the starter with the St. Cloud State Huskies in the WCHA. He has solid positioning in his own crease, and is very good at squaring up shooters. As of July 22nd, 2012, Lee is on the Portland Pirates roster along with Visentin and Johnson, which means Coyotes training camp could play a big part in determining where Lee ends up playing this season.
This is easily the most difficult race to pick, as all three prospects have the ability to do good things in the Coyotes organization. With virtually every minor league spot available, I believe all three prospects will make the jump from major junior and college into the big leagues.
My projected goaltender depth chart:
NHL - Mike Smith - Jason Labarbera
AHL - Chad Johnson - Mark Visentin
ECHL - Mike Lee - Louis Domingue