Sadly Shane Doan didn’t volunteer for the team, but Arizona fans will still get their fix of former Coyotes at this February’s Olympic Games in Korea.
With the National Hockey League banning their players from attending the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea this February, Olympic Hockey Committees around the world have been scrambling to construct “best of the rest” teams in the hope of avoiding embarrassment on the international stage. In particular, Canada and the USA will be hurt most by the NHL’s decision.
Hockey Canada formally announced their Olympic hockey roster earlier today and it featured seven former Coyotes in the lineup. Starting with those who most recently played in the NHL in Arizona’s colours, let us remember these seven former Desert Dogs who will do battle under the Canadian flag in the upcoming Olympics.
Beginning his lone season with the franchise in Tucson, Justin Peters was recalled to serve as Louis Domingue’s backup when Mike Smith was injured during the 2016-17 season. The Arizona Coyotes are actually the team where Peters’ NHL career ended, as he was traded to the Dallas Stars upon returning to the Roadrunners and remained with their AHL affiliate to finish the season. For the 2017-18 season, Peters has split his time between Riga Dynamo in the KHL and the Cologne Sharks in DEL.
Holding the franchise record for points scored (241PTS in 282GP) by a defensemen at his WHL club, the Saskatoon Blades, Stefan Elliott was drafted in the second-round at 49th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2009. Projected to be a lethal two-way defender, Elliott’s game failed to translate from junior to professional as his skills with the puck were overshadowed his lack of position and physicality without it. After a rocky beginning with the Colorado Avalanche, his rights were traded just before the 2015/16 season to the Arizona Coyotes for Brandon Gormley (another defender who failed to transition from junior to pro) and the Coyotes’ signed him for a one year, two-way contract. By the halfway point of the season Elliott was on waivers and after clearing he was traded to the Nashville Predators, reporting to their AHL affiliate. He played two games for the Predators and left the North American scene at the end of the season, opting to team hop around Europe.
Originally drafted at 40th overall in the second-round of the 2010 draft by the New York Rangers, the Arizona Coyotes acquired Christian Thomas from the Montreal Canadiens in 2015 with Lucas Lessio going the other way. He played one game for the Coyotes – against who, we may never know. Since then he has been a consistent contributor in the AHL, first with the Hersey Bears and more recently the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Perhaps the most loved Coyote heading to Korea is Rob Klinkhammer. He is the only ex Desert Dog on this list to have spent the majority of his NHL career with the Coyote franchise, having signed as a free agent just prior to the 2012-13 lockout. Playing with the team’s then AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, Klinkhammer joined the Coyotes after the lockout ended and played 113 games in the Sedona Red before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguin with a conditional 2016 fifth-round pick for Phillip Samuelsson, brother to former Coyote and first-round pick Henrik. Klinkhammer was later traded to the Edmonton Oilers after only 10 games as a Penguin and left North America when he signed with HC Dinamo Minsk of the KHL for the 2016-17 season.
Gilbert Brulé (2011-12 & 2013-14) – now 31 years old
Coyotes Stats: 36 GP – 5G – 9A – 14PTS – 13PIM
NHL Stats: 299 GP – 43G – 52A – 95PTS – 156PIM
Gilbert Brulé is my favourite ex-Coyote on this list. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at college (remember I am from Australia, so I was on my summer break during the 2011-12 season) I was house-sitting for a friend and found a gecko that lived in the house. The gecko and I became friends and such was my love for both Brulé and the gecko, that I named him Gilbert!
The former sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft (CBJ), Brulé was a member of the Coyotes’ infamous 2011-12 cup run which started with the team winning a playoff series for the first time ever (since moving to the desert) and that ended with defeat in the Western Conference Finals at the hands of the LA Kings – for that Brulé must hold a special place in Arizona fans’ hearts.
Andrew Ebbett joined the team as a free agent signing in 2010 as the then Phoenix Coyotes looked to add to the team after exiting the 09/10 playoffs in a 7-game-series against the Detroit Red Wings. The Coyotes were his forth NHL team, having worked his way without being drafted between the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks & Minnesota Wild and then having a shot with the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins following his lone season in Arizona. Ebbett played 3 of the 4-game series in which the Coyotes were swept by the Wings at the 2010-11 playoffs. Most recently he has been playing for SC Bern in the NLA, the professional league in Switzerland.
Wojtek Wolski would be best remembered by Coyotes fans as being part of the 2009-10 trade deadline acquisitions (feat. Wolski, Derek Morris, Lee Stempniak and Petteri Nokelainen) dealt for to push the franchise to their first post-season appearance since the 2001-02 season. Wolski came across from the Colorado Avalanche for Kevin Porter and former rookie sensation Peter Mueller. Wolski, like Stempniak, went on to one of the best segments of his NHL career, earning 18 points in 18 regular season games for Phoenix. He then added another 5 points, 4 of them goals, in the 7-game-series loss to Detroit before fading in the 2010-11 season, eventually being traded to the New York Rangers for Czech blue-liner Michal Rosival. Wolski failed to click with each consecutive NHL team that gave him a chance thereafter and he moved to the KHL beginning with the 2013-14 season. In 2016, he broke his next playing hockey for Metallurg Magnitogorsk but has since recovered.