Ryan Spooner isn't exactly big, Beau Bennett needs to get stronger, and Kenny Agostino isn't large either. If you're interested in a prospect with some size, today's profile will do the trick. Charlie Coyle is many things, but little isn't one of them.
Charlie Coyle - C/RW - 6'2" 202 lbs. - CSS Rank: 24 - Hometown: Weymouth, MA (Source: NHL.com)
2009-10 Team: South Shore Kings - 42 GP - 21 G - 42 A - 63 Pts. - 50 PIM
You may have read the ranking and thought, "John, how come you're bothering with this guy? Sure, we have no idea who will be around at 38th overall, but surely he'll be a first rounder, right?" Not so fast. Not everyone is big on Coyle for two main reasons. Find out both and more after the jump.
As usual, let's begin with the profile at NHL.com. Here, we can learn the first reason why Coyle isn't exactly ever present on mock drafts in the first round. Coyle was a big producer for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL), was named rookie of the year in the league, and won the John Carlton award for being the league's top student athlete.
All are laudable achievements, but all were done at a relatively weaker junior league. That means the level of competition isn't nearly as high as if he were on the United States National Team Developmental Program, the USHL, or Canadian major junior leagues. As with Bennett, it is a valid question: Is Coyle really that talented or was he just a standout among weaker competition? Like Bennett, Coyle will go on to play college hockey at a big program - Boston University in Coyle's case - where these questions will be answered.
Unlike Bennett, however, Coyle has had chances to showcase his game at a higher level of play. Coyle was actually part of the United States team that participated in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial U-18 Tournament as well as the United States team who played at the 2009 Four Nations tourney. In the Hlinka tournament, Coyle put up 2 goals in 3 games as the U.S. finished fourth. While he only scored once in 3 games at the Four Nations, the one he did put in was game winning goal in the final game for the U.S. over Switzerland that sealed first place for the Americans. 3 goals in 6 games isn't eye-popping great, but it's not at all bad in short U-18 tournaments.
While he wasn't part of the U-18 USA team that won gold at the World U-18 Championships, Coyle has been invited to try out for the United States World Junior Championships evaluation camp this summer according to this article at the Patriot Ledger. Just being invited is telling of his talents, regardless of the quality of play in the EJHL. Hopefully, Coyle makes his case in camp to go to Buffalo in December.
My point is that the international play helps the argument that Coyle really does have "the goods." Going back to the NHL.com profile, Central Scouting Services' Gary Eggleston had this quote to describe Coyle:
“Charlie is a skilled forward, who can play a power game as well as a finesse game. He has very good size and athleticism. He has very soft hands and is a confident puck handler. His passes are accurate and proper for the situation. He has a long and strong stride and beats defenders with his acceleration and puck skills. He has a very good wrist shot to support his passing skills in his role as a major contributor to his team's offense. He should, however, shoot the puck more than he does to take advantage of his excellent shot.”
This is definitely a praise-worthy quote. He's not just a big player, he apparently has good puck skills. As far as shooting the puck more goes, that's fixable. That can be taught, and that could help him take it to the next level. I wish he said something about his defense, though.
Still, that's high-praise. Other reports, not so much. For example, the Scouting Report slotted Coyle at 35th in their rankings. Here's the short text on what they think of the prospect:
It’s been a very productive season for Coyle, despite playing in one of the weaker junior leagues in the United States. Coyle, a cousin of Tony Amonte, is a big winger that moves well on the ice and isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas. He competes hard in the corners and has a good scoring touch in front of the net. He’s slated to attend Boston University next season where he will benefit from a few years of development.
That's not bad, and fully in line with the thought that coming out of the EJHL hurts his draft stock. So why only at 35th overall? I believe CSS has provided a clue. At the Sporting News, The Grinder posted up a list of NHL player comparisons for each prospect.
Charlie Coyle is compared to former Boston Bruins grinder, Bob Sweeney. Yes, in a list full of recognizable names, CSS tags him with Sweeney. According to Bubbling Under, an Edmonton Oilers blog, their profile on Coyle has a quick refresher on what Sweeney has done.
Central Scouting compares him to former NHLer Bob Sweeney (639 NHL games; best offensive season 80GP 15-33-48 115PIM). Not exactly a flashy player, but one of those character bottom-6 guys every successful team employs.
I wouldn't take that to mean he should be avoided at all costs. Rather, it suggests that his upside may be limited. I would check out the rest of that post at Bubbling Under, as it makes a good case that Coyle is a "safe" pick.
Max Giese's draft primer for the San Jose Sharks at Sharkspage brought up Coyle as a possibility. His research led him to this conclusion about Coyle, which supports the "limited ceiling" point:
Despite coming out of a low level of hockey in the EJHL, Coyle is relatively a safe bet to at least be a third-liner in the NHL, and some see second-line upside in him as well. He has good size and is a swift skater with quality two-way hockey sense. His defensive awareness and willingness to engage physically bode well for his development but his offensive ceiling depends on if you believe his creative passing ability will translate to the NHL.
At least his defense isn't an issue. Rather, the question is whether his offense will translate over. Still, you can't teach good hockey sense and his size will help more than it hurts him. I wish CSS pointed this out, unless they saw something completely different in the player?
This assessment falls more in line with what Coyle had to say about his own game. Here's his short description in this interview he did with HockeyProspect.com back in March.
HP: When you talk about playing “your game”, what does that entail?
CC: I’m a hard worker. I’m good in the corners winning battles and bringing a physical presence and two-way player. I play center right now but I think I’m better at wing.
Ultimately, I am led to believe that he could end up breaking through as a bottom six winger. Not exactly an exciting outcome, but he may be far more likely to get there in that role than other prospects in this range. How his offense develops could determine how high he gets. Coyle was productive in his league, and he was able to produce a few goals in international play and get invited to the evaluation camp for the US WJC team. That's not nothing.
The previous bits I quoted suggest that it may not happen, and that he's coming out of the EJHL isn't allaying fears. Still, some scouts have found it worthy enough to be praised, like Eggleston earlier in this post and Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report. Woodlief tagged Coyle as a sleeper in this column at USA Today earlier this month:
Sleepers: Charlie Coyle and Brock Nelson
Both players are a bit under the radar because they're not playing at one of the big-time hockey factories. Coyle plays for the South Shore Kings in the Eastern Junior Hockey League and combines excellent size with smooth puckhandling skills and playmaking ability. He has terrific vision and soft hands, and uses his size to win puck battles around the corners and create traffic around the slot. Coyle is also one of the EJHL's hardest workers and very unselfish with the puck.
Perhaps that's the best way to describe him? A sleeper? Someone who has a good bet of making it, but could be better than originally thought?
The knocks on what level of hockey he played for most of 2009-10 and his upside could be enough to knock him down to the second round. Those are the two big reasons I surmised why he may fall in the draft that I alluded to earlier. For the sake of argument, let's assume he's a "safe" pick. At 38th overall, and after a history of not getting NHL players out of the second round, perhaps a "safe" pick would be just the ticket for New Jersey. Should he be seen as a "safe" pick, he may drop out of the first round in favor of prospects with higher ceilings.
I'm not so confident that may be the case. Coyle wrote three posts about his time at the NHL Combine, focusing on his interviews. He was interviewed by most of the league, judging by all three posts (first, second, third) - including the Devils. With this much attention, I can't imagine all of the teams ahead of NJ are sleeping on him.
Fortunately, there is a video that focuses on Charlie Coyle from a EJHL last season. Coyle (#3) and the South Shore Kings took on the Philadelphia Revolution on the road and you can see him on the power play, the penalty kill, throw some hits, and make some plays. I personally think Coyle at 3:34 - 3.39 stood out, in terms of a highlight.
Now it's your turn. Have you seen him play? If so, what can you tell about Coyle's game? What do you think of Charlie Coyle given what others have said about him? Has the video cleared anything up for you about Coyle? Would you like to see him drafted at 38th overall, or is his judged lack of upside along with playing in a weak junior league putting you off? Did I miss anything? Please let me know what you think in the comments.