ADVERTISEMENT

Wild center Matt Cullen cuts in front of San Jose's Torrey Mitchell.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Charlie Coyle after he was drafted in the first round last year by San Jose. He didn't stay with the Sharks very long.

Reed Saxon, Dml - Associated Press

Young assets in Burns trade impressing Wild

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • February 26, 2012 - 12:33 AM

When San Jose plays the Wild on Sunday, fans can judge for themselves how that Brent Burns-for-Devin Setoguchi trade is working out.

But don't forget the long-term investment that came with that draft-day trade. The Wild also got Charlie Coyle -- the 28th pick in the 2010 draft -- and the 28th pick in the 2011 draft, which they used to take Zack Phillips.

The two 19-year-olds are tearing it up on a line for the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. And you can't help but wonder if that chemistry will show up soon at Xcel Energy Center.

"We both think about it," Coyle said. "But we don't talk much about it. ... If it happens, great. I think we'd both be thrilled."

Said Phillips: "We talk mostly about this season. But both of us are thinking about next year and the years ahead."

It took a while for the two to wind up on the same line. As far back as July, Phillips was trying to lure Coyle north of the border. The two were at the Wild's prospects camp. Phillips was fresh off a stellar season for the Sea Dogs, which won the Memorial Cup as Canadian Hockey League champions. Coyle was set on returning to Boston University.

"It was a total sales pitch," Coyle remembered. "It was, 'Come up, we have a great team, we'll make another run at the Memorial Cup.' I gave him the cold shoulder."

Coyle started the season in Boston. But before he played for the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championship over the holidays, he announced he would leave college, move to New Brunswick and play for the Sea Dogs.

St. John coach Gerard Gallant put Coyle at right wing on Phillips' line. The Sea Dogs went 12-1, with Coyle contributing 10 goals and eight assists, and Phillips picking up 14 points.

They are two very big cogs on a very talented St. John team. Gallant, a former Columbus Blue Jackets coach, started with Coyle and Phillips skating with left winger Jonathan Huberdeau (picked third overall by Florida in 2011), but they are now with Maxime Villemaire. Phillips leads the team with 73 points in 51 games in his third season at St. John.

"I like to pass the puck, and he's in front of the net a lot," Phillips said of Coyle. "He's got that big body, he gets to the net and he doesn't miss very often."

Said Coyle: "He's a little smaller than I am, and he's crafty with the puck, stickhandling. He can set me up so well. I think we complement each other."

Gallant looks at the 6-2, 207-pound Coyle and sees an NHL body.

"He's a big, strong guy who can skate," Gallant said. "He's built like an NHL player right now, and that's the way he plays. He's an up and down guy, drives the net, great skater. And he has an NHL shot."

And Phillips? "He has great vision and he moves the puck really well, though he will get a little fancy a little too often," Gallant said.

Phillips has been working hard on improving his skating, with the help of the Wild, which has arranged for a skating coach to work with both players.

Both figure to turn pro after this season. In a Wild organization brimming with quality young prospects, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the two of them to reach the NHL. Until then, they'll focus on winning another junior championship.

© 2014 Star Tribune