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A foursome of tryouts

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The countdown to the first preseason game continues with a look at four players invited to training camp with no guarantees of anything and their odds of making the team.

Upon closer inspection, these are loafers
Upon closer inspection, these are loafers
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes are preparing for full training camp to begin now that the extended look at the rookies has concluded. One of the exciting parts of the beginning of training camp are the non-rostered invitees, known in hockey as PTOs (professional tryouts).

This season, the Coyotes have invited four former NHLers to camp on PTOs. The following is a quick breakdown of each player and their odds of earning a contract based on their camp performance.

1. Jamie McBain

Usually, PTOs are reserved for veterans on the backside of their careers, marginal NHL talents, or players coming off of major injuries. It's quite rare to find a player invited to camp in his prime who has exhibited true NHL skill. The Coyotes have found one such player in Jamie McBain.

McBain is only 26 years old and has shown flashes of offensive brilliance in his career. He had a 30 point campaign in 2011 patrolling the blueline for Carolina and followed that up with 27 points in 2012. His production went down in the lockout shortened 2013 season, with only eight points in 40 games, but his defensive play was solid according to the advanced stats, as he posted career best Corsi and relative Corsi scores (with extremely favorable zone starts if we are being honest). The former second round pick spent last season with the Buffalo Sabres, putting up decent numbers with unimpressive play. There was some shock that more interest wasn't shown in the Minnesota native, most pointing to his lackluster own zone play as justification. Others would be wise to point out that playing for Buffalo last season would not make anybody look appealing on the open market.

Career NHL numbers: 275 GP, 25 G, 67 A, 92 P, -22, 29 STP, 62 PIMs

Odds of earning a contract: 90%

The Coyotes could be looking to add a veteran blueliner to their core of youth. With the recent exits of Rostislav Klesla and Derek Morris, McBain could fill that position. He's not a rock in his zone, but if anything were to happen to OEL or Yandle, McBain could at least add some offensive flair from the backend. Compare these numbers:

Player Goals Shots Shooting % Shots per game
Jamie McBain 25 395 6.3 1.44
Keith Yandle 61 1111 5.5 2.24
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 32 497 6.4 1.93

He is a pretty successful shooter and given how Arizona wants to generate offense from the defense, he could be a guy that fits the mold. He's also a right handed shot, which could help bolster his reps in camp. Arizona could look at McBain as a cheap and viable insurance policy in case of injury to one of their thoroughbreds. I doubt he earns a one way deal, but if he is willing to take it, I could see the Coyotes extending him a two way deal for one season.

2. Matt Smaby

Another defenseman drafted in the second round, Matt Smaby spent last season playing in Germany after suffering a pretty serious thumb injury that ended his run in Tampa Bay.

Smaby was an off again/on again player for the Lightning during his tenure in the Sunshine state. He spent parts of four seasons with the Bolts, never playing more than 43 games in a year. Employed more for his size than anything, Smaby is an intimidating presence, measuring at 6'6" and 227 lbs.

Career NHL numbers: 122 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 P, -16, 0 STP, 106 PIMs

Odds of earning a contract: 30%

Smaby is not a better option than numerous guys already crowding the Arizona blueline. However, his size does set him apart from everyone else on that list. Plus, he shares a common trait that the next two players on the list have: physicality. The desert dogs appear to have one thing in mind with the majority of their PTOs this season, and it's adding toughness to the equation. Smaby may never see the ice for the Coyotes, but he could certainly be a guy that helps the team in Portland. A two-way contract could easily be his if he showcases himself well in camp.

3. Matt Kassian

The first forward on the list is also another second round pick. Matt Kassian has displayed one skill in his limited NHL time in his career, a willingness to drop the mitts. Here he is in a lengthy bout with former Panther Krys Barch (spoiler alert, this won't be the last you hear of Barch):


Kassian doesn't shoot much and won't be an offensive generator, but he has lit the lamp at the NHL level once or twice or four times.

Career NHL numbers: 76 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 5 P, -4, 0 STP, 177 PIMs

Odds of earning a contract: 20%

The Coyotes seem intent on adding toughness to their bottom forward groupings. One would think taking on B.J. Crombeen and his contract in the Sam Gagner trade would be the end of it, but here we are. If the team doesn't think Crombeen fits the mold, there is a chance Kassian could get that spot. I doubt it happens, but maybe they feel adding another depth forward in Portland strengthens the team.

4. Krys Barch

Deja vu.


Krys Barch is an enforcer, end of story. He has four times as many penalty minutes as he does shots on goal in his career. In fact, his career penalty minutes (812) equal a third of his actual NHL playing time (2430). The league is moving toward a faster, more talented group of players and roles are evolving while others are simply dying. The day of the ironfisted enforcer is reaching it's dusk as the role changes to fit in skilled players along the lines of Milan Lucic.

While the role of fights in hockey will always be debated, the position of the enforcer is almost extinct. Barch is a veteran player who brings all of three games of postseason experience with him to the desert. Like Crombeen, he has played for coach Dave Tippett in Dallas, which is probably the only reason he finds himself on this list.

Career NHL numbers: 381 GP, 12 G, 23 A, 35 P, -16, 0 STP, 812 PIMs

Odds of earning a contract: 100%

Ha ha, just kidding. Only trying to make associate editor Brendan Porter's head explode like that guy in Scanners.

Real odds of earning a contract: 1%

I'd ask if there is a number lower than zero, but given the fact that three of the guys being brought in as camp bodies are strictly tough guys, there has to be a method to the madness. Of course, it makes you wonder why the team wouldn't have just called Paul Bissonnette back to the pack. Surely he's comparable if not superior to Kassian and Barch. Barch is a quality teammate but a move like this wouldn't make much sense for today's NHL. Oh well, at least the Coyotes didn't spend 700k on John Scott. A veteran like Barch probably doesn't accept a two-way deal, so Arizona would have to offer him a one way deal for him to accept. Here's to hoping all the fab five blow the doors off during veterans camp.

Do you think any of the PTO's earn contracts? Do you hope one or more do? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments.