'Sir Charles' aiming to take next step

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2012 - 6:54 AM

Charlie Coyle has the size, skills and pedigree, but he knows that hard work is his best route to making the Wild's roster.


Charlie Coyle (3) hovered around the goal last year as Team USA played Sweden in the World Junior Hockey Championship bronze medal game in Buffalo, N.Y.

Photo: David Duprey, Associated Press

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All in all, it was a good move for Charlie Coyle.

Coyle is a 6-2, 222-pound winger who started last season at Boston University but decided, shortly before going to play in the world junior championship, that he would move north to New Brunswick to play for Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He finished the season with a slew of points, an impressive postseason run for the Sea Dogs, a heightened sense of confidence and his very first nickname: Sir Charles.

It was Zack Phillips who shared this story. Phillips and Coyle were linemates for the Sea Dogs. And, thanks to the Wild's trade that sent Brent Burns to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Coyle's rights and the first-round draft pick that became Phillips, they are together at the Wild's developmental camp this week.

"We teased him about it," Phillips said. "We used to call him Sir Charles all the time."

It's a royal nickname for a player who quickly became a royal pain for anyone playing the Sea Dogs. Coyle has a couple of assets that can't be taught. He's big and he's strong. Add to that quick feet, a heavy shot and a willingness to use all of the above make him a player to watch this fall.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher has worked hard to get the organization to the point where no player had to be pushed to the NHL too early. Quality prospects have been drafted or acquired, and the NHL roster has been enhanced, most notably by the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter through free agency.

That means there aren't a lot of roster spots that figure to be open this fall. But don't make the odds on Coyle too long.

He has NHL power forward size, and he has ability. Perhaps most important, he plays a very self-aware game.

"That's the most important thing for him," said Brad Bombardir, the Wild's director of player development. "He knows what his game is. He knows what gives him success, and he establishes himself early in games -- physically getting in on the forecheck, puck protection. He's strong on the half wall in the defensive zone. He manages the puck really well."

In 23 regular-season games with the Sea Dogs, Coyle had 15 goals and 23 assists. A typical goal would start with him going into the corner and getting the puck. He would send it out to Phillips, then move toward the net. Phillips would give it back for that quick, heavy shot.

"If you got it to him anywhere out front, right to the top of the circles, there was a pretty good chance it was going in,'' Phillips said.

Coyle -- with his new nickname -- was really hot in the playoffs. Saint John won the league championship and Coyle was the playoff MVP, getting 15 goals and 19 assists in 17 games.

And now Coyle is ready to take another step. He'll go home to Massachusetts for a couple of weeks after this camp ends, then return to train here in August. His goal, of course, is to be wearing a Wild jersey this fall.

It won't be easy. There aren't a lot of spots open, and Mikael Granlund figures to take one. The competition will be fierce among the young players invited to training camp. "Charlie is a big guy, a power forward," Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said. "Then you have Jason Zucker and his speed and shot. Or a guy like Johan Larsson, who has an overall game, or Brett Bulmer, who worked hard, came here in incredible shape. These guys are all motivated to play sooner rather than later. We may have some tough decisions to make."

Coyle continues to work on strength, knowing how many NHL players can match him there. He needs to work on shooting more quickly and increasing his skating speed. How much he improves in those areas could determine whether he begins his pro career with the Houston Aeros in the AHL or with the Wild.

"You want to set your goals high," Coyle said. "Everybody wants to play for the big team. I'll keep working to get that. Whatever my hard work gets me, that's where I'll deserve to be."


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