Phoenix's season ended in disappointment, missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a lockout-shortened season, but there were some positive signs for the future. The Coyotes' American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine had a young tea...
Phoenix's season ended in disappointment, missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a lockout-shortened season, but there were some positive signs for the future. The Coyotes' American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine had a young team, but one that progressed as the season went along. In his first year as head coach of the Pirates, Ray Edwards led his team to the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Portland Pirates earned the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. A young, inexperienced team had two-goal leads in the first and third games, but ultimately was swept out of the playoffs by the Syracuse Crunch, the affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"You have to keep things in perspective with our group. I think we learned a lot in this series. Our young players learned a lot," said an optimistic Edwards following the conclusion of his team's playoff run.
Two of the most promising prospects are wingers Chris Brown and Lucas Lessio. Brown has more seasoning, having played three years at Michigan and experienced international competition at the World Junior Championships for the Bronze Medal-winning USA squad in 2011. Lessio finished his major junior career in April before joining Portland.
Brown, a second round pick in 2009, played with the US National Development Program in Ann Arbor before matriculating to the University of Michigan where he played for the legendary Red Berenson. The Flower Mound, Texas product notched 34 goals in three seasons with the Wolverines before forgoing his senior season to sign with the Coyotes. Brown is a big, physical wing who can add power up front.
This was his first year playing professional hockey. He played in 68 regular season games and three playoff games with Portland. He got a taste of the NHL, playing in five games with the Coyotes. Brown tallied 30 goals for Portland, including one in the playoffs. When talking about the highlights of the season, Edwards emphasized the significance of Brown scoring so many goals in his first season. "We had a first year player score 29 [regular season] goals," said Edwards when listing some of the positives of the season as a whole.
Lessio, a second round draft pick in 2011, only played in eight AHL games following the conclusion of Oshawa's season in the OHL. He scored a goal and added three assists, including two in the playoff series. The Maple, Ontario native missed roughly half of his team's games during the OHL regular season with an injury. The left shot winger found the back of the net 89 times during his OHL career. Taking Lessio in the second round could end up being quite the steal for Phoenix. He can bring the physicality needed to be a power forward while at the same time having the hands and craftiness to work his way around traffic. He really uses his body well especially to gain possession of the puck.
"Lessio's a second round pick for us. He'll turn pro next year. These experiences are valuable to him. He's a guy who you project to play in the NHL some day. It's important to get him into these situations and important to get him some seasoning," said Edwards.
In his short time in Portland, Lessio left the coaching staff with a solid first impression as he earned his way into the lineup for the post-season. "He earned a spot in the lineup [for the playoffs]. He earned that from his last few games of the regular season. I have to give him a lot of credit. You may see him back here in Portland, if he doesn't stick with the big club."
Taking nothing away from their fine seasons in the AHL, forwards Andy Miele and Alexandre Bolduc are the perfect examples of "4A" players. They are terrific AHL players, but can't make it happen in the NHL.
Miele led the Pirates in points with 20 goals and 36 assists for 55 points in 73 games played. The 24 year-old out of Miami University is just too small, and not fast enough to be an affective player at the next level. Phoenix gave him a shot in both the last two s