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THE DESERT DOG BLOG: GRETZKY TALKS ROOKIES

Sunday, 09.14.2008 / 8:22 PM / The Desert Dog Blog - by Dave Vest
By Dave Vest
Information, observations and anecdotes about the Coyotes
as told by Dave Vest, the team's V.P. of News Content

Well, here we go.

The 2008-09 NHL season doesn’t officially start for nearly another month, but it started for me on Sunday morning as I attended the Coyotes Rookie Camp inside Jobing.com Arena, and watched the young players work out under the supervision of Head Coach Wayne Gretzky for the first time. After a long summer, it felt great to be around the rink again witnessing the 23 young players stretch, skate, shoot, etc. The sound of pucks hitting posts is music to my ears.

Anyway, I got the chance to speak to Gretzky afterward and we chatted about what he’d be looking for and noting as the rookie camp continues until “the big boys” - as he called them - show up this weekend. While some rookies, namely Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker, appear to be locks to make the Opening Night roster, Gretzky is expecting a few others to wow the coaching staff and make it hard for them not to keep them around ala Daniel Winnik and Craig Weller in 2007.

“There’s always one or two guys who jump up out of nowhere during training camp,” Gretzky told me as we spoke in the hallway outside his office. “So we’re always on the lookout, trying to find those guys. Now, I’m not sure who that is after one day, but we’ll know who they are really soon...That’s why we preach to the young players to come to camp ready to go because if you do good things here you’re going to get an opportunity to stay around longer.”

I’m thinking defenseman Jonas Ahnelov has a good chance to be one of those guys considering the Coyotes need depth on the blue line. Plus, Ahnelov, who spent the summer working out at Athletes’ Performance Institute in Tempe, is a strong kid and plays hard, and Gretzky likes those traits.

I also asked Gretzky how deep he’d likely be dipping into this pool of young players – beyond Turris and possibly Boedker - to fill roster spots.

“Some of these kids have some really good skills and their upsides are tremendous,” Gretzky said. “But there’s a fine line because you don’t want to put them into a situation where you’re racing them (to the NHL) and making them uncomfortable because we know they’re going to mature and some of them will eventually be big parts of the success of our organization.”

Gretzky plans to be behind the bench on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon when the Coyotes rookies play against rookies from the Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena. I asked him why, with an 82-game regular season and hopefully some playoff games looming, he feels the need to play such a prominent role in a pair of rookie games in September.

“As an organization we really believe that it’s important to have one voice speaking to the young players in a sense that some of these kids may not be here this year or next year, but some of them may eventually play here and we want them to understand that we play one system and there’s one style that we preach,” he said. “So, it’s good that Ulf (Samuelsson) and Grant (Fuhr) and (Doug) Sulliman and I are all here to speak to them so they see we’re going to be telling them the same exact things we’re going to be telling the veterans when they get here on Saturday and Sunday.”

The veterans will take physicals on Friday and then take the ice for the first time on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Jobing.com Arena.

Thanks for reading.

Dave
thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com



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