With training camp starting tomorrow, we wanted to give you a rundown of players to watch as camp goes forward. Some will be AHL bound, one may be going back to Juniors and three are most definitely NHLer’s.
Merkley hasn’t seen a full camp with the Coyotes since he was drafted in 2015. The first time due to an injury to his collarbone during the rookie scrimmage against the Los Angeles Kings. The second due to his knee still healing from surgery that he had in February of 2016. He participated in exhibition games and camp but was still not 100% back to his normal self. He told Northeast Valley News that his doctor said it would be a year before his knee felt normal again.
Merkley shone brightly in the Rookie Showcase in the two games he played versus the Ducks and the Avalanche. During the Ducks game Merkley scored the only goal for the Coyotes and against the Avalanche he scored the OT winner after the team had blown a three goal lead.
What Merkley has going for him is that he is a right wing who is a defensive playmaker. The right wing is also a place the Coyotes are lacking depth at the moment. He may be behind Christian Fischer in the call-up order from the Tucson Roadrunners, but he could steal a spot if he shows what he can do during the pre-season.
Jens Looke (Lööke)
Lööke or as on the back of his jersey Looke, is an interesting player to watch. He played in the HockeyAllsvenskan, the second tier of the Swedish Hockey League, for Timrå. He played against men, giving him a slight advantage over the younger players just coming out of junior.
He looked years ahead of some of the prospects during Development Camp this summer. He will be a great addition to the Roadrunners and the depth on the right side.
Kevin is indeed the younger brother of star defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson and follows in his footsteps play the same position. Ekman-Larsson has signed an AHL contract for the year and it will be his first year on NHL sized ice. He has played all of his adult career with Tingsryds AIF, his hometown team where his father was general manager.
Oliver has said before that his brother is a better defender than himself, this is Kevin’s chance to prove that to Coyotes fans.
Coming off of an amazing rookie year in the AHL Wood could push for a spot in the NHL line up. He still has a few things to work on, his skating a bit and using his size, but the 6 foot 5 right handed defender has a lot of upside. The Coyotes are currently low on right handed right defenders and if there is an injury to anyone, Wood is the guy.
We have been touting Smereck all offseason, here at Five For Howling. He needs a little polishing, which he will get in the AHL, but he could also sneak in and take a spot in the NHL in the third pairing. He thinks on his feet and is a good puck mover.
Miska is coming off of wicked season with the University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and into the AHL. Miska is a calm goalie who tracks the puck well, the type of goalie that you look at for the future. He is ‘smaller’, only being 6 foot 1, but he fills the net as if he is Ben Bishop sized. He is not as mobile or reactive as Adin Hill, but the two will make a great tandem for the Roadrunners.
Junior (or bust)
Dineen is coming off of an MCL repair, where it can take up to a year to feel back to normal, but it didn’t seem to faze him at all. He has been strong both in Development Camp and Rookie Camp with any defensive partner they assign him to.
He can only go back to Junior or stay in the NHL since he is only 19 years old. He most likely will not make it on the roster this year, but if he has a strong season in North Bay he could have a shot next season of being a high defensive pair player for the Roadrunners.
No Doubt NHL
Stepan was one of the major additions to the Coyotes before the draft on June 23rd. The Coyotes have been itching to have a true number one center for a long time and hopefully, Stepan can fulfill that role until Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak can take over.
Stepan has been designated as the 1C and we will soon see if the trade was worth it. Stepan is an older player, but at this point anyone over 25 is considered an older player.
Hjalmarsson being brought in will settle Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the first defense pair for the next two years. He is one of the best shutdown defenders in the league and will eat pucks like Zbynek Michalek.
If you have watched any Chicago Blackhawks games in the past ten years, you will know what he brings to the game, consistency.
Raanta was in the Stepan deal as well, but now we have a starter. He has been playing behind starters for most of his career, except that weird month last year when Henrik Lundqvist forgot how to goalie. He got caught in the goalie drama in Chicago before he went to the New York Rangers, where everyone is behind King Henrik.
Raanta could bring the goaltending stability that the Coyotes need for their growing team. Yes, he is 28 years old, but he should stand the test of a full NHL season as a starter.
Who are you most excited about seeing at camp? Who is your underrated player to watch and your ‘duh he is on the team’ player to watch?