Last year Coyotes fans saw veteran forward Ray Whitney find his niche on a line that featured Czech’s Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Racking up 24 goals and 53 assists, the 40-year-old Alberta native had his best season since the ’08-’09 campaign when he was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Whitney, always noted for his size, exceeded as a small man in a big man’s sport. So naturally much buzz was surrounding the signing of 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner, Andy Miele.
Reluctant to draft him because of his size, teams let Andy Miele go undrafted in 2010. The 5’10 Michigan born center possess a resumé that features not only the Hobey Baker Award but the USA Hockey’s College Player of the Year title as well as a spot on the USA roster representing his country in the World Championships. With a hockey rap sheet that would make any general manager blush, Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney jumped at the chance to sign the 71 point producing forward. Signing as a free-agent in April, the Redhawks’ senior finished his final year at Miami (Ohio) University and looked to impress the coaching staff at training camp later that summer. Eventually making the Coyotes’ AHL affiliates, the Portland Pirates’ roster, Miele recorded 16 goals, ending the season with 54 points. Having completed a strong season with the Coyotes organization, Miele agreed to terms that would see him for an additional year with the Phoenix club. Facing stiff competition, Miele is set to face off with another prospect that shares a similar story.
Brendan Shinnimin, like Miele, went unclaimed at draft time. The 21-year-old Winnipeg born player continued his path with the Western Hockey League’s Tri City Americans. After being invited to the Coyotes training camp in 2011, Shinnimin was offered an AHL contract by the desert club but opted against it in hopes of attracting an NHL contract instead. The decision paid off as the Tri City American forward ended his last season with his junior hockey team holding the title of both CHL’s leading goal scorer as well as the league’s player of the year. The buzz created by the the sniper forward yielded plenty of offers by other NHL teams but Shinnimin ultimately decided to sign with the team that originally offered him a contract. Agreeing to terms with the Phoenix Coyotes, Brendan Shinnimin signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club in March 2012.
The two forwards who were dealt the same hand but persevered are now facing each other as they battle for position on the Portland Pirates’ roster. Finding themselves in stiff competition, the Pirates have already began to make cuts. Among those cut already are Coyotes’ prospects, goaltender Louis Domingue and defenseman Justin Weller. Both will see ice time with the Coyotes ECHL’s affiliates, the Gwinnett Gladiators. More cuts are expected in the next coming weeks as the Pirates are now with a roster of 26 players.
Based out of Arizona, Ed Chavez joined The Hockey Writers to cover the Phoenix Coyotes before moving onto THW’s sister site, Sunbelt Hockey Journal where he covers hockey happenings in the desert. Follow Ed on twitter, @edmchvz