© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
When you factor in players such as Cam Dineen (2016) and Cameron Crotty (2017), the Coyotes prospect pool stretches back seven drafts. We have tried to keep you abreast of all of them at PHNX Sports, but sometimes it’s worth revisiting previous names because a lot has happened along their development path since the last time we checked in on them.
That’s the case with two of the three main subjects of the February edition of the Coyotes prospect report, but we also went a step further in this month’s report.
While we generally rely on development staff and those players’ coaches to paint a picture of their progress, we talked to all three players involved this time.
Here’s a look at Harvard center John Farinacci, Tucson Roadrunners forward Ben McCartney and Québec Remparts defenseman Jérémy Langlois.
Coyotes prospect John Farinacci
John Farinacci thought that he had put his trials behind him.
When COVID-19 canceled the entire 2020-21 Ivy League season, Farinacci made the most of his time by playing seven games for Muskegon in the USHL, and seven for the United States, which captured the gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Rather than returning to the USHL after the tournament, he trained with a bunch of Harvard teammates and trainer Brett Strot in Tampa (on their own dimes).
The year off hurt his production in 2021-22, but he trained even harder last offseason with the goal of finishing his Harvard career with a flourish.
Farinacci sustained a herniated disc in his lower back that required microdiscectomy surgery. Due to recovery and rehab, he didn’t return to the Harvard lineup until Jan. 13.
“I’m just looking at it from a glass-half-full mentality; knowing that it’s all happening for a reason,” the Crimson senior said. “It’s going to make me stronger mentally and more specifically, it taught me what exercises I can’t do and how to train smarter. I’m feeling great now; starting to feel truly 100 percent through 12 games.”
While the NCAA granted most college players an extra year of eligibility due to Covid, the Ivy League did not follow suit. Farinacci, the Crimson’s captain, has the option of transferring to another school for an added year of eligibility. Arizona State was among the programs interested in him, but Farinacci put the kibosh on such plans.
“Obviously, not being able to come back to Harvard rules that option out, but there’s really not any other place that I want to play college hockey besides Harvard,” he said. “It’s where I have spent my whole college career and that means a lot to me.”
The Coyotes will retain Farinacci’s rights until Aug. 15 so a signing could be in the works. That’s not the focus right now, however. Harvard (19-6-2) sits second in the ECAC standings behind Quinnipiac, and 10th in the PairWise rankings that go a long way toward determining the NCAA Tournament field of 16.
Since returning to the lineup, Farinacci has 11 points in 12 games and his coach and uncle, Ted Donato, has seen a purpose to his play.
“It had to be really frustrating for him to get all the way back to school and then be injured, and it’s probably fair to say that it’s a little bit of a challenge to catch up right away when you’re jumping in in the middle of the season, but he’s played really, really well for us,” Donato said. “He’s been, at times, a little bit snake bitten — not in production, just in scoring goals — but he’s a point-a-game guy for us. He’s used on the power play. He’s used on the penalty kill. He’s used to take faceoffs. Often, he matches up against the other team’s top lines. We still have a lot of important games coming down the stretch here, but we’re, quite frankly, a different team once he’s in place.”
Farinacci has worked with several members of the Coyotes development staff including Nathaniel Brooks, but his main point of contact has been Coyotes director of player development Lee Stempniak, who lives in the Boston area. In spite of Farinacci’s ample missed time, Stempniak has a clear method for evaluation.
“You look for growth in their game, skills that will carry on to the next level and are they an impact player at their current level,” Stempniak said. “To his credit, he’s a really important part of a really good Harvard team. He didn’t play his first game until January. He was really good the first weekend, he had a little dip the second weekend and other than that he has been pretty good.
“He’s a really intelligent player. He’s always in the right spot defensively and he’s skilled. He’s got good puck skills, he can make plays in traffic, he can make all the little plays, and what I like about him is he’s got the ability to play on the inside. He is a guy that can take the puck from outside the dots and find ways to get it inside to the middle of the ice, whether that’s little passes through guys or slick moves or finding those pucks with instinct.”
Like a lot of players on the development path, Farinacci is focusing on his feet and his skating.
“A big thing for him is moving his feet, especially as the puck transitions from defense to offense,” Stempniak said. “So whether that’s a breakout or a regroup or broken plays, it’s taking in your information as you’re moving your feet and then having momentum and jumping into those holes. A thing that John needs to work on is his skating, especially the acceleration; the first three steps to gain that separation.”
Harvard will complete its regular season this weekend with games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson before opening the ECAC tournament and likely the NCAA Tournament. Nothing is concrete yet, but once the postseason concludes, don’t be surprised to see Farinacci sign with the Coyotes and begin his career with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.
Coyotes prospect Ben McCartney
When Ben McCartney reported to Coyotes training camp in 2022, there were no expectations. There rarely are with seventh-round draft picks. Anything they show is gravy.
Instead, McCartney gave the Coyotes’ coaches a full-course meal. He blew everyone away with his energy and production at camp, and in his first season of pro hockey with the Roadrunners, he had 18 goals and 35 points to go along with that always-revving motor.
One season later, McCartney has just seven goals and 15 points in 40 games, leading some fans to wonder if he has taken a step back. Not at all, Roadrunners coach Steve Potvin said. We’re just getting a glimpse of how McCartney will crack an NHL roster.
“Benny is playing the minutes that he’s going to be playing in the NHL,” Potvin said. “He needs to understand how to simplify his game while bringing the intensity that he can bring. Sometimes, Ben has a lot of intensity and not a lot of control. He is one of those guys that can really drag guys into fights, he competes hard, and he expects a lot out of himself, but he has to be able to play under control.
“He needs to manage the puck, play from underneath the goal line, be able to make a play off a breakout and keep possession of the puck. We’re really focused on that part of the game. Of course we want production out of players that come to the American Hockey League level, but for him and his future, he won’t necessarily be solely relied on for offensive production.”
McCartney projects as a depth forward who can bring energy, kill penalties and chip in with offense. The building out of the Roadrunners’ roster this season has allowed Potvin and his staff the luxury of using him in that role.
“We have a better team here and I think that’s also very important for prospects to be able to play with internal competition because that’s what they’re going to be up against all the time in the NHL,” Potvin said. “They have to learn to play a simple brand of hockey that will give them the opportunity to play at the next level. Ben is fully aware of that process.”
McCartney is trusting that process.
“I had more of an offensive role last year and obviously stats come from offense,” McCartney said. “This season, I’m playing more of a role where I want to be trusted in every area of the game. I need to limit the turnovers. To play on the bottom two lines, you have to be able to not force a play but make a play when it’s there so I’m just trying to be calm with the puck and make the correct decisions.
“I know for a fact that for me to play in the NHL, I’m not going to be a top-end scorer and I’m not going to be a full-out fighter. I’m going to have to just be a really simple player and be able to get trusted. I want to build the trust with my coaches and within the organization on what I can bring every night. I don’t take any day for granted. I know I’m young right now, but I could be old in six years.”
In his viewings and his conversations with Potvin, Stempniak sees a player who has been trying to find himself while bouncing around different lines and adjusting to his new role. There have been recent signs of progress, including the go-ahead goal in the first game of the Roadrunner’s two-game sweep of Henderson last weekend.
“There’s things you just love about him because he wears his heart on his sleeve, he plays with so much energy, and he’s around the puck all the time,” Stempniak said. “As far as the next step for him, I think there are two key areas. I think he’s made strides in terms of his decisions with the puck whereas before it felt like he was forcing everything and trying to make a play every time he touched it. He’s gotten past that. When he has the puck, it’s about executing at a higher level or higher percentage, which is a challenge in the American league and is even harder to do in the NHL with defenseman and their gaps and less time and space.
“The other thing is just making a few more plays. He’s around the puck a lot, so just finding ways, especially in the offensive zone or in the neutral zone, to get those pucks off the cycle into the middle of the ice and keep plays advancing; finding ways to be part of the sequence that leads to a shot, or leads to more offense.”
Coyotes prospect Jérémy Langlois
Jérémy Langlois never minded playing for Cape Breton on the northeastern edge of The Maritimes. There were just a few things that he missed in his three-plus seasons with the Eagles.
The Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval native is getting all of them now that he is part of the Québec Remparts after an early-season trade.
“I’m home, I’m eating my mom and my dad’s food, it’s my language and we’re going to the playoffs,” he said, laughing. “I’ve never been to the [QMJHL] playoffs before. When I was playing in Cape Breton last year we were either dead last or second to last in the CHL and then this year, we didn’t have a great start to the season.
“When I got the call to go to the rink and have a meeting with the GM and he told me I was traded to Québec, the feeling that I had was just amazing. We have a chance to go for both cups. Every time I step on the ice with Québec, I’m just super energized. We always have the chance to win and we haven’t been losing a whole lot of games since I’ve been here.”
The Remparts, whose coach is Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, have an eight-point lead over Bobby Smith’s Halifax Mooseheads for first place in the Q. Since joining the Remparts, Langlois has been playing heavy minutes with a spot on the team’s top power play. That may change when Florida Panthers second-round pick Evan Nause returns from a broken foot, but Langlois figures to maintain a major role for the rest of his fourth QMJHL season.
“He was playing top-four minutes when he got there, probably 20 minutes a night, and now he’s playing 25, 26 minutes a night in all the key offensive situations while also playing penalty kill and playing against top lines basically every game,” Coyotes defenseman development coach Kurtis Foster said. “The situation has gone very well for him where now he’s playing with a lot of NHL drafted players, strong players, and his offensive abilities are really coming out while his defensive game is improving.”
In 47 games split between Cape Breton and Québec, Langlois has nine goals and 39 points.
“When he was in Cape Breton, I think he would admit he probably tried too much because he felt like he had to change the game, where now we can go play because he plays on a strong team and there’s a lot of good players around him,” Foster said. “The biggest difference he sees in practice is with the team having so many high NHL picks, these guys push each other every day and there’s a lot of competition.
“Patrick is a coach that is very big on defensive details and how they play their structure defensively. You can really see it in Jeremy’s game and how much it’s improving with the way he defends one on one, the way he defends his D-zone. Even his physicality is improving. All those parts of his game where we wanted to see improvement, it’s happening.”
Because this is Langlois’ fourth season in the CHL (he will turn 20 in September), he is eligible to turn pro and play in the AHL next season. That is a goal, he said, for which he is striving every day.
“Patrick knows how André Tourigny likes to coach and we had a good chat about it,” Langlois said. “He wants me to move on next year, go pro, whether it’s AHL or NHL. He told me that he will make sure that I play the way that André wants me to.”
If all goes well for Langlois, he’ll have a short summer. The Memorial Cup is scheduled for May 26-June 4 in Kamloops. Coyotes development camp should start about four weeks later and Langlois plans to attend. With an over-age year in the Q still possible, he’ll have to earn his pro spot in that camp and rookie camp later this summer.
In the six games since Coyotes 2021 first-round pick Dylan Guenther returned to the Western Hockey League, he has four goals, nine points and the Seattle Thunderbirds are 6-0 to open an eight-point lead on Kamloops atop the Western Conference.
In five games since returning from injury to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL, Coyotes 2019 fourth-round pick Alexandr Daryin had three goals and an assist. Former Russian and NHL star Igor Larionov is his coach. Stempniak stays in touch with him.
Coyotes 2019 fifth-round pick Aku Räty has continued his strong play with Tampereen Ilves. In 46 games, he has 15 goals and 37 points.
- In his past nine games, Coyotes 2022 first-round pick Logan Cooley has three goals and 16 points to climb into fourth place among NCAA points leaders with 44. Cooley’s Minnesota Golden Gophers (23-8-1) lead the Big Ten and are ranked No. 1 in the PairWise rankings.
Top photo of Coyotes prospect Jérémy Langlois at the 2022 NHL Draft via Getty Images.