The 2021-22 hockey season is starting to wake up from its summer slumber, highlighted by the Arizona Coyotes‘ prospect development camp scrimmage Monday night. The game featured a little bit of everything — five-on-five, four-on-four, and penalty shots — while highlighting the skills that the NHL hopefuls took away from the process.
The camp had players from all over the Coyotes’ organization, including current American Hockey League (AHL) Tucson Roadrunners players, recent draft picks, and players on amateur tryouts. Though many fans came to see 2021 ninth overall draft pick Dylan Guenther, they were treated to a mid-September hockey game that, frankly, had plenty of moments of high intensity.
Dylan Guenther Makes Gila River Arena Debut
Guenther, wearing number 11, was on the ice early and often in the scrimmage, and made the most out of the lessons he learned in camp. It was an admittedly grueling start to the 18-year-old’s career in Arizona, as the prospects are on the ice multiple times per day, when they’re not in the weight room or attending meetings.
Some of the most important lessons that the prospects take away are not limited to the ice, either. Guenther consistently reiterated the fact that his preparation for the next level of hockey goes beyond understanding the fundamentals of play. It’s in the details: How you prepare for each session, and how you take care of your body, both with diet and strength training.
Having some experienced “veteran” players at camp who have been through this type of program before helped show Guenther just what that all entails.
“It’s the small details, like taking care of yourself, showing up on time, putting the right food in your body, and watching them just during the fitness testing, and how strong they are,” he said. “I’ll get there, and I have a little ways to go, but it’s a good way to use yourself as a measuring stick with those players, and see where you need to be at to get to the next level.”
One of those veteran players included defenseman Vladislav Provolnev, who has spent the better part of six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Despite his previous professional experience, he wanted to take part in the camp after signing a one-year deal with Arizona in March, and did not disappoint.
Provolnev was joined at camp by several veteran Roadrunners players, including forward Ryan McGregor and defenseman Ty Emberson. Needless to say, having that experience on the camp’s roster was an important part of the program.
“They don’t always want to come to these development camp, but I think they’re important,” Roadrunners assistant coach Steve Potvin said after Monday’s scrimmage. “I think you get that edge on the competition in rookie camp, or in the main camp, for guys that haven’t been able to really practice hard at the level these guys are at tonight.”
Though he was held scoreless in the actual scrimmage, Guenther notched a picture-perfect shooutout goal, delighting the fans who watched Monday night. In a short amount of time this offseason, he has already impressed, and Potvin has already taken note of the prospect’s raw hockey talent.
“He loves the game of hockey,” Potvin said. “You can see it, he wears it on his sleeve. He wants to learn, he wants to get better, but he also loves to shoot the puck, and he cannot wait to get into that slot and shoot the puck.”
Janis Moser & Emberson Showed Early Chemistry, Others Step Up
Defenseman Janis Moser, who was drafted 60th overall in the second round by the Coyotes in the 2021 NHL entry draft, clicked when paired with Emberson, who demonstrated plenty of offensive prowess from the blue line.
Emberson helped Moser settle in to his first Coyotes camp, and the pair certainly looked comfortable together during the scrimmage.
“He’s a good leader, and a fun guy,” Moser said. “I really think I had the most [chemistry] with him, just because he’s my D-partner.”
Another player that caught Potvin’s eye was forward Austen Keating, who is currently unsigned, and most recently logged time with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Ottawa 67’s in 2019-20, where he logged 89 points in 58 games.
Potvin also mentioned 18-year-old Manix Landry, a forward drafted 139th overall in the 2021 NHL entry draft, as a player who made an impression during last week’s camp.
“I thought [Landry] was quick on pucks, and he was making real good decisions in the D-zone,” Potvin said. “He was able to transport the puck through the neutral zone, I thought he was really good, I thought his pace was high.”
Rookie Tournament Set to Take Center Stage
With prospect development camp coming to a close, all eyes will shift to the Rookie Faceoff Tournament, set to be held this upcoming weekend at both Gila River Arena in Glendale, and the Ice Den in Scottsdale. The six-team tournament will feature the Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Vegas Golden Knights, and will feature some of the league’s top prospects.
Despite his extremely high ceiling, Guenther was happy to get the camp scrimmage under his belt before the upcoming weekend tourney.
“It’s nice you get to do this before you go and play other teams in the rookie tournament, so it was good,” he said. “It’s fast out there, there’s really not a lot of time and space.”
One thing’s for sure: after a grueling camp, Guenther, and the rest of the prospects, are due some much-deserved rest before facing off against the league’s collective future.
“It was a long week, and your body is tired, and you have to kind of find ways to push through, and play these kind of games,” Guenther said. “That happens during the season, too. I think I’m going to do whatever I can to take care of my body, and make sure I feel better going into the next camp.”
Fans certainly can’t wait to watch.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.