GLENDALE -- While the Coyotes’ season is just starting to heat up, some of the organization’s top prospects are looking to keep making an impact on their teams as they head into the stretch run of their respective seasons.
Forwards Chris Brown, Lucas Lessio, and Henrik Samuelsson all are having good seasons, but none of their seasons have looked alike and all three have had to overcome some hurdles on the way to success this year.
Brown, who was a second-round selection (36th overall) of the Coyotes in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is entering the home stretch of his first professional season with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, where he ranks fifth on the team in scoring with 16 goals and 11 assists in 48 games.
Brown says being around so many players who have spent time in the NHL – Oliver Ekman-Larrson, Michael Stone and roommate Chris Summers to name a few – has helped him learn what it takes to be a pro and has eased what could’ve been a difficult transition from college hockey.
“I think I’m just trying to play my style of game; use my shot and my size and my speed to my advantage,” said Brown, whose Portland team is currently competing for first place in the Atlantic Division. “Since playing college hockey I’ve been told I have a pro style of game, so I’ve been able to utilize all those aspects and put some decent numbers up for my first year. But I get to play with guys like Andy Miele, Chris Conner, Alexander Bolduc. Having them on my line has helped a lot.”
Lessio, who was a second-round selection (56th overall) of the Coyotes in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, had his season in the Ontario Hockey League interrupted in late October because of injury. But after missing three months, he was able to pick up where he left off early in the season and has notched 11 goals and 11 assists in 24 games this season for the Oshawa Generals.
“Everything is going well,” said Lessio, a native of Maple, Ont. “Our team is doing very well and we’re looking to go pretty far in the playoffs. We’ve only got 11 games left in the regular season and we’re pretty excited for the playoffs coming up.”
Not only does Lessio feel like he’s bounced back from his injury, but he also feels as if his injury was a learning experience that will help him as his career moves forward.
“I thought I had a pretty good start … and then I was told that I was going to be out for three months,” said Lessio, who scored a goal and an assist to help his team to a 6-2 victory over Sudbury on Monday afternoon. “That was really my first-ever big injury; I had never missed more than two weeks with an injury… It was kind of tough but I managed to keep on through it all, which was a character builder for me.”
Across the country in Edmonton, Samuelsson is flourishing in the Western Hockey League. The Coyotes’ first-round selection in last year’s NHL Entry Draft is ranked third in scoring with the Oil Kings, having tallied 30 goals and 42 assists in 60 games.
“It’s been a pretty good season for the team and myself,” said Samuelsson, who grew up playing hockey in the Valley. “We’ve won 14 out of the last 16 games, so it’s been a good stretch for the team and also for myself. So, I can’t really complain. We’re sitting on top of the Eastern Conference right now, so it’s going great.”
Samuelsson said the biggest challenge for him this season has been trying to perform at the highest level on a daily basis in his first full WHL season.
“There’s obviously all these ups and downs, but I think it’s just the amount of games that we play,” said Samuelsson, who has registered points in 12 of his last 14 games. “We play 72 games, so it’s as close to an NHL season as any other league in the world. So, I think it’s important just going out there and performing each game, and giving your best performance each game.”
He added: “My linemates have been really good with me and we’ve played together most of the year now. We’ve built up some incredible chemistry as a line and they’ve put up some very good numbers. I have to credit them.”
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