Scouting The Enemy – Charlie Coyle, Houston Aeros

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

Charlie Coyle, the little engine that could, isn’t having such a little start to his rookie pro season in Houston. A guy who was drafted high, traded for integral pieces, and then placed on a very young squad where he’d spend his first season on the payroll not fighting for a chance in the big leagues (thanks lockout) – not ideal. But Coyle has taken it in stride. A full year of tier III junior play, one and a half decent seasons at Boston U, and then 40 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs (including playoff games) of the QJMHL – all before finally landing professionally with the baby Wild, or as they are called in these parts, the Houston Aeros. His bouncing about hasn’t slowed his prospecty goodness.

Coyle’s prospect status has been given the here and there treatment as well. In 2011, with Minnesota at the NHL Entry Draft host, the Wild made a play that featured Coyle. Gone Puck Wild gives us a breakdown of that trade:

The Minnesota Wild hosted the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and they made quite a splash during the first day when they announced they had pulled off a trade that would see them acquire forward Charlie Coyle from the San Jose Sharks. The announcement sent the crowd into a frenzy as stated by fellow Gone Puck Wild writer Scott Drain who was at the draft. In the words of Drain, “Coyle is a stud” and Wild fans have to be ecstatic about having the youngster apart of the organization, enforcing the fact that the Wild won the trade even if it may take a year or two to prove.

The deal also saw the Wild acquire Devin Setoguchi and a first round draft pick in the ’11 draft and at the time the deal was all about Setoguchi for Brent Burns. But Coyle was the key factor in the trade that made Wild GM Chuck Fletcher part ways with Burns, a highly sought after defenceman.

It is yet to be determined if the loss of Brent Burns is in any way equivalent to what the Wild snatched in return, including Charlie Coyle. However, his play through eighteen games in Houston has been eye brow raising as well as promising.

His coach in Houston, John Torchetti, has sung his praises from as early as camp. And he continues to be impressed. He tells the Star Tribune:

“He’s going to make an impact on the Wild for two reasons: He’s no-maintenance, high-character and he is so good, so willing defensively,” Torchetti said

“But Torchetti doesn’t think you can play in today’s NHL without the defensive component, and Coyle “has been our most consistent, complete forward night in and night out since the start of the year.”

There are some Wild fans who like to compare him to a Wendel Clark or a Cam Neely, but in actuality that’s the type of player we all compare two-way guys to. Or at least I do. And I think it does Coyle a disservice to pigeon hole him a bit because he’s a gifted offensive player that can play defense. And at 20 years old, it’s so hard to predict this type of players NHL future, even though he’s clearly a well above the norm AHL player.

I’ve seen him play a few times this season. It seemed he’d get buried behind Mikael Granlund in the lineup, but with the Finn out, Coyle has found some leg room. His season total of 7 goals and 4 assists in 18 games isn’t all that bad. It’s also worth noting that he’s at a 0 on the +/- rating amongst a very heavy defensive role as a forward. I like that.

I also like that he’s willing to get dirty. His best moments seemingly come directly in front of the net. He’ll stand his ground, get bumped and heaved around, but weather the storm. He’s a great leader in terms of how he plays a sturdy game on the ice. This makes for a dangerous opponent.

Hockey’s Future had similar glowing reviews:

Charlie Coyle does not have the same ability to distribute as Granlund does (few do) but his size and instinct for making plays around the net have him looking like a good offensive option as a pro. Coyle’s intensity on the ice is an area for him to focus on throughout the year. He is already looking effective in the AHL at making space for himself.

He’s the type of player that is hard to groom, hard to draft, and sometimes hard to understand. I’ve attempted to compare him to the Barons, Teemu Hartikainen, but Coyle might be a step ahead of the “Teemu Curve” in terms of his defensive abilities.

Coyle will, in the end, benefit from the lockout season. He’ll give the Wild something to look forward to outside of their current NHL guys. And perhaps he fits a need within the Wild far beyond their original understanding. And that only makes things better.