Scouting The Enemy – Charlie Coyle, Houston Aeros

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

Charlie Coyle, the little engine that could, isn’t having such a little start to his rookie pro season in Houston. A guy who was drafted high, traded for integral pieces, and then placed on a very young squad where he’d spend his first season on the payroll not fighting for a chance in the big leagues (thanks lockout) – not ideal. But Coyle has taken it in stride. A full year of tier III junior play, one and a half decent seasons at Boston U, and then 40 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs (including playoff games) of the QJMHL – all before finally landing professionally with the baby Wild, or as they are called in these parts, the Houston Aeros. His bouncing about hasn’t slowed his prospecty goodness.

Coyle’s prospect status has been given the here and there treatment as well. In 2011, with Minnesota at the NHL Entry Draft host, the Wild made a play that featured Coyle. Gone Puck Wild gives us a breakdown of that trade:

The Minnesota Wild hosted the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and they made quite a splash during the first day when they announced they had pulled off a trade that would see them acquire forward Charlie Coyle from the San Jose Sharks. The announcement sent the crowd into a frenzy as stated by fellow Gone Puck Wild writer Scott Drain who was at the draft. In the words of Drain, “Coyle is a stud” and Wild fans have to be ecstatic about having the youngster apart of the organization, enforcing the fact that the Wild won the trade even if it may take a year or two to prove.

The deal also saw the Wild acquire Devin Setoguchi and a first round draft pick in the ’11 draft and at the time the deal was all about Setoguchi for Brent Burns. But Coyle was the key factor in the trade that made Wild GM Chuck Fletcher part ways with Burns, a highly sought after defenceman.

It is yet to be determined if the loss of Brent Burns is in any way equivalent to what the Wild snatched in return, including Charlie Coyle. However, his play through eighteen games in Houston has been eye brow raising as well as promising.

His coach in Houston, John Torchetti, has sung his praises from as early as camp. And he continues to be impressed. He tells the Star Tribune:

“He’s going to make an impact on the Wild for two reasons: He’s no-maintenance, high-character and he is so good, so willing defensively,” Torchetti said

“But Torchetti doesn’t think you can play in today’s NHL without the defensive component, and Coyle “has been our most consistent, complete forward night in and night out since the start of the year.”

There are some Wild fans who like to compare him to a Wendel Clark or a Cam Neely, but in actuality that’s the type of player we all compare two-way guys to. Or at least I do. And I think it does Coyle a disservice to pigeon hole him a bit because he’s a gifted offensive player that can play defense. And at 20 years old, it’s so hard to predict this type of players NHL future, even though he’s clearly a well above the norm AHL player.

I’ve seen him play a few times this season. It seemed he’d get buried behind Mikael Granlund in the lineup, but with the Finn out, Coyle has found some leg room. His season total of 7 goals and 4 assists in 18 games isn’t all that bad. It’s also worth noting that he’s at a 0 on the +/- rating amongst a very heavy defensive role as a forward. I like that.

I also like that he’s willing to get dirty. His best moments seemingly come directly in front of the net. He’ll stand his ground, get bumped and heaved around, but weather the storm. He’s a great leader in terms of how he plays a sturdy game on the ice. This makes for a dangerous opponent.

Hockey’s Future had similar glowing reviews:

Charlie Coyle does not have the same ability to distribute as Granlund does (few do) but his size and instinct for making plays around the net have him looking like a good offensive option as a pro. Coyle’s intensity on the ice is an area for him to focus on throughout the year. He is already looking effective in the AHL at making space for himself.

He’s the type of player that is hard to groom, hard to draft, and sometimes hard to understand. I’ve attempted to compare him to the Barons, Teemu Hartikainen, but Coyle might be a step ahead of the “Teemu Curve” in terms of his defensive abilities.

Coyle will, in the end, benefit from the lockout season. He’ll give the Wild something to look forward to outside of their current NHL guys. And perhaps he fits a need within the Wild far beyond their original understanding. And that only makes things better.

Scouting The Enemy – Sergei Andronov, Peoria Rivermen

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Announced two weeks ago, the Peoria Rivermen signed the St. Louis #78 draft pick of 2009, Sergei Andronov, to a one-year AHL contract. What’s surprising about this late summer grab is that Andronov seemingly had no interest in North American hockey, and never quite was able to erase question marks about his skill set to make the jump across the pond. Yet suddenly, he finds himself in a one-year show-and-tell of sorts with very little promise of playing in the bigs in the immediate future. So the Rivermen of Peoria get a solid player, but the signing doesn’t appear to be a depth chart move by the parent club in St. Louis. So what does he bring to the table in terms of American League potential?

Peoria, now playing in the Midwest Division if the Western Conference has always been a thorn in the side of the Oklahoma City Barons. Perhaps their defensive styles, and no-wiggle-room ways are too similar. Or maybe the divisional separation lends itself to unfamiliarity. Either way, in short doses, a rivalry has brewed between the two teams that quite frankly, not many saw coming. And again, the teams will only meet twice during the upcoming season (Early December and late March), but prepare yourself for two healthy battles.

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Scouting The Enemy: Mike Connolly, Lake Erie Monsters

When David Quinn was promoted from the Lake Erie Monsters head coaching job to assistant with the Colorado Avalanche, it was just a matter of time before the organization selected a young up and comer to toil away in Cleveland. Thus comes Dean Chynoweth, a former player and most recently an Islanders assistant, to help guide the team in what will be their sixth season of AHL play. With the addition of Chynoweth the team will likely continue their moniker of being defensively sharp, but with the desire to play a much speedier offensive game. But with four youthful goaltenders battling for AHL spots (Sami Aittokallio, Kieran Millan, Kent Patterson, Calvin Pickard), the shedding of goal scorers (Greg Mauldin, Evan Brophey, Patrick Rissmiller, Ryan Stoa), and the unknown impact of an NHL lockout – it’s hard to get a handle on how the lineup fuses together, at least in mid to late August.

It was inevitable that the Monsters rid themselves of forwards that simply didn’t come up big when they needed them most. In April of last season, it was hard to find enough offensive power from the Erie squad to make the playoffs. Thus the season ended a bit early, and with a lot of question marks in the minor league offseason. But hope in this department seemingly came at the trade deadline of 2012. That’s where the Avs/Monsters found Mike Connolly.

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Scouting The Enemy: Matt Fraser, Texas Stars

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

As fans of specific American Hockey League teams await a full schedule from the league’s front offices, it’s that mid-August point of the off-season where you can indeed begin to size up your opponent — despite knowing when or where or how often you’ll be seeing them. Over the last two seasons of farming history in Oklahoma, the Barons have seen their share of Texas teams. It’s not uncommon, mainly for travel purposes, for the schedule to have a heavy emphasis on neighboring teams. And, rightly so, neighboring teams in the same division of the league. Even with a new simplified conference realignment this summer, the Oklahoma City Barons still find themselves shrouded by teams from down south. San Antonio, Texas, and Houston will all be familiar foes in the 2012-13 season (add Charlotte for good measure). So familiarize yourself right now with these teams, their players, and their futures — we’ll see them a lot.

Take the Texas Stars, for instance. A down year last season doesn’t equal the talent they have at various positions. Much has been debated on the goaltending load that the Stars organization has shouldered in the offseason, and it’s definitely interesting to watch. However, there are a few names that come to mind offensively-speaking when talking about the Texas Stars. One of those being young Matt Fraser.

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