2014 wasn’t kind to Arizona’s hockey franchise. Losses piled up like dishes after Thanksgiving dinner. However, there were five Arizona players whose play during the year deserves to be commended.
Mikkel Boedker: It is sometimes easy to forget the Danish winger is only 25 years old. After being rushed to the NHL mere months after being drafted 8th overall in the 2008 Entry Draft, it has taken Boedker until the past year or two to truly start producing like top-6 forward. He now is looking to shoot first instead of pass. The young Dane had 17 goals, and 32 assists during 2014.
Devan Dubnyk: For a guy whose year started off about as poorly as possible, being traded twice in less than two months and ending the season in the AHL, Dubnyk has steadily been taking starts away from the presumed No. 1 in Arizona, Mike Smith. Dubs has been the steady hand in the storm so far this campaign. As of the Christmas break, the Regina, Saskatchewan native had a .925 save % and a 9-3-2 record in the games he started for Arizona, including a road shut out against Vancouver back in November.
Tobias Rieder: The young German turned 21 just after the New Year. He spent his birthday with the Coyotes’ AHL club in Portland, Maine, and started the current season there as well despite having a strong training camp in Phoenix. He was called up the big league on Nov. 2. That night, against the Washington Capitals, Rieder scored his first NHL goal, which turned out to be the game winner. He has since struck the net three more times and made it next to impossible for the coaches to take him out of the lineup due to his strong two-way play. The former Oiler draft pick has given a ray of hope for the future for Arizona fans.
Josh Sweeney: We consider the Glendale native an honorary Coyote as the former Valley resident grew up playing hockey in town. He actually even played a game at Gila River Arena as a high schooler. Sweeney scored the game winning goal for Team USA in the Paralympics Gold Medal Game in Sochi. After winning the gold medal, Sweeney returned to Glendale to drop the puck at a Coyotes game in late March. In July, the former United States Marine received an honor named after another former Valley resident. Sweeney received the first annual Pat Tillman Award for Courage award at the ESPYs.
Antoine Vermette: Along with being a stud in the faceoff circle and being the team’s best two-way forward, the veteran center stepped up his offensive game. He potted 22 goals and added 26 helpers during the year. His hat trick against the Canucks on Jan. 26 was one of the individual highlights of the year. No surprise the Quebec native is at the top of the list of pending free agents involved in trade rumors.