Tucson’s AHL roster building from Coyotes NHL training camp
The Tucson Roadrunners, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL Arizona Coyotes, will face off its first season in the AHL’s Pacific Division with a road game against the San Diego Gulls on Oct. 14.
Putting together a competitive team during the club’s inaugural season in the Pacific Division will be the job of Tucson general manger Doug Soetaert and head coach Mark Lamb. The ‘Runners have already gotten a head start on that by signing a number of players during the offseason.
They include forwards Hunter Fejes (pictured) and Mark Cooper, defensemen Michael Young and Michael Boivin and goaltender Austin Lotz to AHL two-way contracts.
Lotz appeared in 170 games in the Western Hockey League with a 75-63-17 record, 2.96 GAA and .902 save percentage.
Olver, 28, may be the most experienced of the Tucson players with 74 NHL games under his skates with the Colorado Avalanche from 2010-13. He also has 180 career AHL games to his credit with 48 goals and 122 points in that span.
Selleck, 28, appeared in 60 games last season for the Springfield Falcons, the Roadrunners’ forerunner, with a career high 10 goals and 22 points. He is a veteran of 392 AHL games and three games in the NHL, including one with the Coyotes.
“Mark has the ability to create offense and brings lots of speed to his game,” Soetaert said. “He is a solid veteran forward with a winning attitude. (Eric) brings lots of energy each night and is a hard player to play against. I feel he will quickly become a fan favorite with the way he plays the game.”
The 26-year-old Burlon, who spent five years in the New Jersey Devils NHL organization, has appeared in 292 AHL games with 19 goals and 94 points.
Soetaert said Burlon brings veteran leadership and depth to Tucson. “He is a solid skater with great vision when he carries the puck,” Soetaert explained. “The way he plays trends in the direction the sport is headed and he is a solid addition to lead our younger defensemen.”
The foundation of the new Tucson entry will be laid down over the next few weeks through assignments made by the NHL parent club during training camp.
The Coyotes rookie training camp opens Sept. 17 at the Gila River Arena. The main camp opens on Sept. 23.
The Roadrunner roster will be based on off-season signings by the AHL club as well as prospects filtering down from the Coyotes.
In fact, Lamb will be running the Coyotes rookie camp and will coach the Arizona rookies against a group of rookies from the Los Angeles Kings in a pair of games on Sept. 20 (6 p.m.) and Sept. 21 (2 p.m.) to close out the rookie camp. Both games at Gila River Arena are open to the public will be streamed live on ArizonaCoyotes.com.
Lamb will use the opportunity to assess the Coyotes’ younger prospects as well as keep an eye open for possible talent for his own team.
“These young guys have practiced all summer and they’ve been in the weight room and they’ve done the work, and now it’s time to play and show us what they can do in the rookie games,” Lamb explained. “It’s a real good chance for us to see where a lot of prospects are amongst their peers.”
Coyotes GM John Chayka said the NHL team has worked hard over the off-season to upgrade its young talent pool.
“I really think this prospect group will be the most talented rookie camp ever for this organization,” Chayka noted. “It’s going to be very competitive. We’ve got a lot of real good, young players all competing for spots and competing to play games at the NHL level and get into our exhibition games this season.”
Among those players invited to the Coyotes rookie camp are seven with connections to last season’s AHL Springfield (Mass.) team: goaltenders Marek Langhamer and Adin Hill, defensemen Dysin Mayo and Kyle Wood and forwards Christian Fischer, Ryan MacInnis and Michael Bunting.
Bunting appeared in 63 games last season for Springfield with 11 goals and 25 assists.
Nine other players with ties to last season’s Springfield team have been invited to the Coyotes’ main camp: right wing Craig Cunningham (46 points in 61 games), left wing Tyler Gaudet (13 points in 44 games), right wing Stefan Fournier (four points in 32 games), center/left wing Matia Marcantuoni, right wing Henrik Samuelsson (12 points in 43 games) and center Laurent Dauphin (24 points in 66 games), defensemen Dakota Mermis (13 points in 63 games) and Justin Hache (14 points in 67 games) and goaltender Louis Dominigue (39 games with Arizona last season).
Main training camp invitees who saw action in the AHL last season include left wing Garret Ross (Rockford), center/right wing Chris Mueller (San Diego), center Zach Boychuk (Bakersfield) and defenseman Jamie McBain (Ontario).
Mueller, who won an AHL Calder Cup championship with the Texas Stars in 2014, recorded 20 goals and 57 points in 63 games last season in San Diego.
The Coyotes purchased the Springfield franchise, which had served as its AHL affiliate, and moved the team to southeastern Arizona to better serve the parent club with a pipeline of readily available talent. The benefit for Tucson is the availability of NHL specialty position coaches to help further develop prospects.
With the teams being separated by only 130 miles, Coyotes executives will be able to cast a watchful eye on AHL prospects.
Tucson will play two preseason games – Oct. 7 in Stockton and Oct. 9 in San Jose – once player assignments have been completed by the Coyotes.
The Roadrunners will host the Stockton Heat in their home opener on Oct. 28 at the Tucson Convention Center.
Photo/Casey B. Gibson
— Phillip Brents