The Portland Pirates should be younger next season with more homegrown players than the team that failed to make the Calder Cup playoffs in its first year as the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Portland Coach Ray Edwards, who will fly to Arizona over the weekend to attend the NHL team’s development camp, estimates as many as 17 players who were drafted by the Coyotes or signed as amateur free agents could play for the Pirates next season.
“Now most of our players will be learning how to do things our way from the start. I think we’re going to be a young hard-working team that will be fun to watch,” said Edwards.
Brad Treliving, the Coyotes’ assistant general manager, said the approach isn’t a change in philosophy.
“It’s more a question of timing,” he said. “When we took over the team, we didn’t have many draft picks, or the players we did draft went right into the NHL and didn’t spend much time in the AHL. Now we have a lot more players we drafted available to play in the AHL.”
The NHL has operated the Coyotes since 2009, when Jerry Moyes, who purchased the team in 2005, turned it over to the league after suffering massive financial losses and declaring bankruptcy. Greg Jamison, the former San Jose Sharks president, is trying to complete a deal to purchase the Coyotes.
A total of 10 players drafted or signed by the Coyotes could return to the Pirates next season — defensemen Maxim Goncharov, Mathieu Brodeur, Chris Summers, Mark Louis and Michael Stone, and forwards Jordan Szwarz, Andy Miele, Brett Hextall, Evan Bloodoff and Ethan Werek.
That group could be augmented by seven recent draftees — goalies Mark Visentin and Louis Domingue, defensemen Brandon Gormley and Justin Weller, and forwards Brendan Shinnimin, Darian Dziurzynski and Philip Lane. All of those players are eligible to start their first pro season next fall with the Pirates.
“For the first time since I’ve been coaching the team, we’re going to have a team made up mostly of our guys and I’m really excited about that,” Edwards said.
“In the past we’ve had to sign guys who were drafted or signed by other organizations before us to fill out our roster, and we’ve had to retrain them.”
The Pirates still will have some holes to fill.
Three players from last season have signed to play in Europe — centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Colin Long, and defenseman Nathan Oystrick.
“We will need another scorer, a physical player who has some edge to him and a tough guy,” Edwards said. “We really didn’t have a tough guy last season.”
The Coyotes will have nine selections in the seven rounds of the two-day NHL draft that starts tonight in Pittsburgh, but none of those players are expected to turn pro and play for the Pirates next season.
Phoenix, which advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history in Arizona, will open with the 27th pick in the first round.
“We’ll take the best player available,” Treliving said. “We’re not going to take a forward just to take a forward. If the best player available is a defenseman, we’ll take him.”
The organization’s coaching and training staff will get a first look at its draft selections during a development camp next week.
“It will give us a chance to look at their physical conditioning, and it will give them a chance to meet our coaching and training staff,” Treliving said.
Most NHL teams wait until after the Fourth of July to hold their development camps.
“This gives us two months before training camp opens to get all of these players on a program and get them into the kind of shape we want them in,” Treliving said.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: