Although the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout destroyed half a season, many of the Phoenix Coyotes prospects were able to continue their development with the organization's AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. The Pirates roster was a collection of fresh draft picks, rising NHL stars and journeymen looking for a chance to prove themselves. While most of the Coyotes' strength lies in their young defensive corps, the Pirates' 2012-2013 offensive production has been impressive.
Andy Miele has developed into a scoring threat for the Pirates this season. In 2011, Miele was awarded the Hobey Baker Award for the best NCAA men's ice hockey player. In essence, the Hobey Baker award is similar to the Heisman in football, with the exception that many talented prospects choose not to play NCAA hockey.
Last season, Miele tallied 54 points (16 goals - 38 assists) in 69 games. So far the season, he has scored 26 points (11 goals - 15 assists) in 35 games. His points-per-game production has remained relatively the same, going from 0.782 last season to 0.742 this season. However, the improvement in Miele's production can be seen in the fact that he is shooting more and scoring more goals.
Miele's strength has been, and will continue to be, scoring. Whether it's goals or assists, Miele is a gifted offensive threat. Whether or not he will develop into an all-star NHL center remains to be seen. However, one thing is absolutely certain: he can't be more of a dud than Kyle Turris turned out to be.
Look for Miele to move back and forth between Portland and the Coyotes this season. Management will likely want him to stay in Portland to further develop his skills.
At the beginning of the season, the Pirates named the 27-year-old Alexandre Bolduc as their captain. The journeyman center has spent the majority of his professional career jumping from one minor league team to another, in hopes of landing a consistent roster spot in the NHL. During those years, he managed to land a few short stints with the Vancouver Canucks and in a two-game stint with the Coyotes last season.
Bolduc's production this year has been uncharacteristically strong. He currently leads the Pirates in scoring with 32 points (17 goals - 15 assists) in just 34 games. The last time Bolduc scored at least 32 points in a season, it took him 62 games to do it. He has also shown strong leadership and mentoring abilities with the younger players on the team.
The benefit that Bolduc brings to the Coyotes is the addition of further depth of grit and tenacity at the center position. If Boyd Gordon or Kyle Chipchura get hurt, or start underperforming, Bolduc is a very strong alternative. At the present moment, "Alexander the Grate" seems to be a stronger-then-average injury call up who will continue to mentor and lead the younger members of the team.
Even though he still hasn't reached the AHL, Samuelsson has garnered a lot of excitement among Coyotes fans. He spent a significant amount of time growing up and developing his game in the Phoenix area. In fact, he spent a lot of time playing at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. Not many first round NHL draft picks can say that.
In many ways, Samuelsson is said to resemble another local hockey icon - Shane Doan. Like Doan, Samuelsson is a strong power forward with skilled hands and high scoring potential.
The wonderful thing about Samuelsson is that he has only improved since being drafted last June. During his abbreviated 2011-2012 season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored 23 points (7 goals - 16 assists) in 28 games. So far this season, he has increased his production by scoring 47 points (22 goals - 25 assists) in 40 games. He is not only scoring more total goals, he is scoring goals more often (1.18 points-per-game).
Keep your eyes open for Samuelsson over the next few years as he'll certainly take a few years to make his NHL debut. Samuelsson is as good of a fit for the Coyotes (personality wise coupled with his style of play) as we could possibly hope for.
After all, the kid has already already chirped BizNasty.
He'll fit right in.
No, not that Chris Brown. However, the Coyotes' Chris Brown has been involved in five fights so far this season.
Brown is another player that fits well into the Coyotes powerful, grinding style of offense. He was the Coyotes' 2nd round draft pick (36th overall) in 2009. He spent the past three years playing NCAA hockey with the University of Michigan, and has provided a solid physical game to the Pirates this season. With 20 points (12 goals - 8 assists) in 34 games, Brown is putting up solid numbers for a rookie.
Expect Brown to continue developing his game at the AHL level this season, but do not be surprised if his name pops up on the main roster sometime down the road.
Wild Card: Brendan Shinnimin
Brendan Shinnimin was one of the more interesting stories to emerge from the CHL last season. After a couple of increasingly impressive years with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL, Shinnimin broke out by scoring 134 points (58 goals - 76 assists) in 69 games. Yeah, you read that right. The last person to score like that in the WHL was, ironically, Ray Whitney.
Shinnimin went undrafted, but signed a three-year entry term contract with the Coyotes in March 2012. So far, his rookie AHL season has produced 17 points (7 goals - 10 assists) in 35 games. He is certainly a raw talent, but his potential is off the charts.
Shinnimin is a fast and chippy center with good faceoff ability and incredible vision. At this point, he needs to adjust his game to play against bigger, faster and smarter opponents. If he can elevate his game, like he did in major junior hockey, he could become a dangerous offensive threat.
The Coyotes have a very good blend of talent at the center position. Some of their prospects specialize in grit, others in scoring. After spending several years developing the defensive corps, it seems that General Manager Don Maloney may put more of his future draft attention to bolstering this already potent corps of offensive talent.