The Arizona Coyotes are blessed to have two prospects with the best first name in the universe. Number 20 on our 21 under 21 countdown is plying his trade at the University of Michigan in what will be his second NCAA season. As a two-way forward, Brendan Warren could develop into a reliable depth option for the Arizona Coyotes on the wing in the future.
#20 - Brendan Warren - Left Wing - University of Michigan - 81st overall pick, 2015 NHL Draft
Highest Rank: 11
Lowest Rank: 22
It is unsurprising that the Carleton, Michigan native ended up at Michigan considering Ann Arbor is less than an hour away. Michigan reached the NCAA Tournament Regional Final last season before falling to eventual National Champion North Dakota.
Brendan Warren models his game on perennial Detroit Red Wings pest Justin Abdelkader. Love him or hate him (mainly, hate him), but Abdelkader is one of the best models for what the modern-day NHL enforcer is: a troublemaker who can play solid minutes and contribute offensively.
Warren’s best asset is his skating ability, which allows him to anticipate plays and be at the right place on the ice at the right time. That helps Warren avoid unnecessary penalties (he had only 18 PIMs in 38 games last season) while simultaneously giving him the chance to create opportunities for himself and his teammates.
In this play from 2013, Warren creates and capitalizes on his chance. He anticipates the pass in the neutral zone and immediately redirects the puck to an open teammate (2015 Ottawa Senators 1st round pick Colin White). Warren then separates himself from the Slovakian defenders pursuing the puck and lags behind White and teammate Jeremy Bracco (a 2015 2nd round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs) to give Bracco a second passing option as the defender cuts off White.
While good hockey sense is a prerequisite to be an effective NHL regular, Warren’s offensive game has not developed as quickly as would be expected from a highly touted scorer, which was the major concern even before he was drafted. If he can’t elevate his offensive play to the next level, the bottom-six in the NHL is his likely ceiling.
But Warren is part of a second wave of prospects that will enter the prime of their careers as Arizona’s first wave - Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, and Jordan Martinook - all clearly establish themselves in the NHL. There is no need to hurry Brendan Warren along.
Juggling the need to be a more effective scorer with the commitment to defense will be the next challenge for Brendan Warren as he enters his sophomore year at Michigan. If he can do that, he will be a very intriguing player to watch in the next 2-3 years.