Wild rookie Coyle makes impact

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2013 - 7:27 PM

Charlie Coyle, a 21-year-old rookie, took his lumps early, learned in the minors and returned to become a cog on the Wild’s top line.

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Charlie Coyle.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com ,

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Tony Amonte tries to catch most every Wild game on television.

“Well, at least the 7 o’clock games,” Amonte said. “The West Coast games, they’re a little too late for me.”

But the former NHL standout has become a big Wild fan because his not-so-little 6-3, 220-pound cousin, Charlie Coyle, has established himself as the team’s first-line right winger. Amonte, who scored 416 goals and 900 points in 17 seasons, recognizes how unique it is that a 21-year-old, first-year pro gets to skate nightly with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

“It was a pretty quick rise for Charlie,” Amonte said with a thick Boston accent similar to the son of his first cousin, Chuck Coyle. “Charlie was always a good player, but I think he really grew into his own the last three years or so. He really grew into that body, filled out, got a lot taller and really seems to have taken his game to another level.”

After leading Saint John to a Quebec League title last year with an MVP postseason, Coyle has become one of Wild coach Mike Yeo’s most trusted players after only half a year in the minors.

Yeo uses Coyle in every situation because his game is so mature. Coyle’s physical tools are easy for anybody to see. He’s big and fast and has a great shot and good hands.

But what’s so impressive for a rookie is the fact Coyle understands every facet of the game, especially how to play without the puck. In Calgary and Edmonton this week, his back pressure on retreats and defensive play in his own zone led to a flurry of turnovers. And he did it despite taking a high stick to the mouth Monday that resulted in stitches to his tongue and a need for dental repair when the team returns home.

It sure looks as if the Wild acquired a star-in-the-making from the San Jose Sharks, the team the Wild visits Thursday, as part of the package in the June 2011 Brent Burns-for-Devin Setoguchi blockbuster. Sharks fans know it, too. In Coyle’s first visit here April 3, they audibly groaned when he scored.

“It’s not just the plays he makes. It’s the plays he doesn’t make,” Yeo said. “Some youngsters are going to do three or four great things in a game, but they’re going to have five plays you wish they could have back. His game keeps removing the things that you wish that he didn’t do. They’re becoming fewer and fewer every night.”

Coyle was a fitness freak, lifting weights, doing cardio and learning stretching techniques before he even finished middle school.

At Thayer (Mass.) Academy, a prep school where he became a star, Coyle wore No. 3, the same number made famous by the school’s current coach — one Tony Amonte.

“It’s awesome to have a guy like him in my family,” said Coyle, who followed Amonte’s footsteps to Boston University. “He’s always been my hockey role model. I’ve always looked up to him and followed in his footsteps. He’s always a phone call away.”

Hanging in there

Coyle is the quintessential example of the rookie who gets a brief taste of the NHL, is then sent back to the minors only to return a better player the second time around.

In February, Coyle got a five-game stint with the Wild. He didn’t register a point but showed flashes. He was returned to AHL Houston only to be called up again nine days later. He scored his first career goal that night against Calgary and hasn’t left since. He has scored seven goals in the past 27 games.

After that initial demotion, Amonte reached out to his cuz.

“I told him to keep his chin up and work hard so when you get the next opportunity, you can make the most of it that second time around,” said Amonte, 42. “He has really done that. He has really gone out there and proven what he can do and just made the most of an opportunity, because how many times do you get a chance to play with guys like Koivu and Parise?”

Coyle offers Koivu and Parise a big body that’s willing to go to the dirty areas, battle along the wall and dig out pucks. Coyle’s work ethic and “compete,” as Yeo says, mirror that of Koivu and Parise.

Just look at Koivu’s goal Monday in Calgary. Coyle dumped the puck, then won the race to the puck, then the battle for the puck. He didn’t get an assist, but he made the entire play happen.

In a March 10 victory against Vancouver, Coyle singlehandedly enabled the Wild to execute an entire line change by bouncing off, evading and bulldozing through defenders before helping set up a Parise goal.

In Columbus last week, Coyle had a similar masterpiece shift when he kept possession in the offensive zone with a single-man forecheck long enough to allow a wholesale line change. Moments later, Mikael Granlund set up Coyle for a goal.

Playing both ways

Amonte can’t get over how astute his cousin is defensively.

“And that was probably the thing I struggled with most coming into the league, always wanting to score goals and being on the wrong side defensively,” Amonte said.

Coyle says his responsible play comes from his father, Chuck, who coached him until high school.

“He taught me to be a good two-way player, to play in all three zones,” Coyle said. “And each level I’ve gone up, I’ve adapted and tried to do better and better each time. Here, literally every game I feel more comfortable and more confident with the things I can do on the ice.”

Amonte has noticed. And he couldn’t be prouder.

“You should see how my kids at Thayer look up to Charlie,” Amonte said. “All the kids are following him, tweeting about him and keeping a close eye on what he’s doing. They’re striving to be as good as he is.

“Charlie’s had one thing on his mind since he was a kid, and that was to play in the NHL. He’s put everything he’s had into it. He wants it bad, and you see that by his preparation and what he puts into the game.

“It’s nice being on the other side now and getting to watch him. He wants to be the best player he can be for Minnesota. He wants to be a success.”





  • Down the stretch

    A look at the Wild’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race (with games remaining):

    Team Points GR

    1. Chicago 70 6

    2. Anaheim 60 5

    3. Vancouver 55 5

    4. Los Angeles 53 5

    5. San Jose 53 5

    6. Wild 51 5

    7. St. Louis 50 6

    8. Columbus 49 4

    9. Detroit 47 5

    10. Dallas 45 6

    11. Phoenix 43 6

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Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 112 FINAL
Portland 115
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
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Loyola-Chicago 67
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Missouri State 72
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(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
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