Coyle answers call of the Wild
With surprise trade, BU power forward switches NHL track
A funny thing happened to Boston University centerman Charlie Coyle last Friday.
The 2010-11 Hockey East Rookie of the Year and East Weymouth native was sitting in his BU dorm room, alone. His roommate, Terrier defenseman Adam Clendening, was in Minnesota, attending the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Coyle was watching the draft on television, hoping to see Clendening and a handful of other teammates join him in having their rights selected by an NHL team.
Coyle was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (28th overall) in last year’s NHL Entry Draft. Last Friday, while keeping one eye on the TV set, he was booking a trip to California for rookie camp in mid-July.
When he finished, the 19-year-old forwarded the itinerary to the Sharks from his laptop. Minutes later, Coyle got a phone call from San Jose general manager Doug Wilson.
“I thought they were going to yell at me for doing something wrong with the itinerary,’’ Coyle said. “Then they said they were going to trade me.’’
Ten minutes later, the news was all over Versus’ NHL Draft coverage. In a blockbuster move, the Sharks had acquired stalwart defenseman Brent Burns and a 2012 second-round pick from the Minnesota Wild.
In exchange, San Jose sent to the Wild four-year NHL veteran Devin Setoguchi, a former first-round pick, and the rights to sign Coyle once his BU playing days are done.
“I had no idea,’’ Coyle said.
The text messages and phone calls came pouring in. Among the callers was Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher, who was hoping to catch up with his new prospect.
Coyle missed the call — “My phone was going off the hook,’’ he said — but he caught up with Fletcher on Saturday. The pair didn’t talk long, but they plan to sit down in coming days to discuss Coyle’s future with the organization.
They’ll have plenty to discuss. Coyle shined early in his freshman season at BU, but late in the year the rookie wore down beneath the weight of a hockey-heavy schedule.
Coyle played at Weymouth High his freshman year, at Thayer Academy as a sophomore and junior, then his senior year with the South Shore Kings in the Eastern Junior Hockey League. He has just finished his freshman year at BU.
It’s common for teenagers to struggle in their first season of Division 1 hockey, wilting from the demands of a more physical game over a six-month schedule.
For Coyle, the challenge was doubly tough because he was selected to represent his country in the World Junior Championships over the winter break. The choice to play gained him valuable experience against top-level competition, but came at the cost of resting his teenage body for a few weeks over the holiday.
Coyle turned in 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) for the Terriers on the season, but had five assists and no goals over the team’s final 14 games.
“It was tough,’’ Coyle said. “A lot of guys get that two-week break around Christmas, and I kept going at the World Junior Championships. I never got that break and a chance to settle down.’’
The Sharks had planned to let Coyle return for his sophomore season, in large part to keep him training with world-renowned BU athletic trainer Mike Boyle.
“Next year, after working with Mike Boyle all summer, I’ll be more prepared for the season, and hopefully to handle playing in the World Juniors again,’’ Coyle said. “I’ve actually kind of noticed a pretty big difference this summer.
“I think this year I’ve grown another inch, and I’ve gained like 10, 15 pounds. I’m up to 215, and it’s not like I’m getting fat.’’
That physical growth, paired with the framework of skills Coyle put on display last season, has Minnesota excited to have him waiting in the wings.
“There is no way this deal gets done if Charlie Coyle’s not in it,’’ Fletcher said in a Friday press conference. “We feel he’s one of the top young power forwards in the game.’’
Fletcher and Coyle will likely draw out a tentative plan for the young skater in the coming days. But based on what both parties are saying, Coyle probably will return for at least one more season with the Terriers before taking the next step toward an NHL career.
“I’ll speak to Jack Parker and we’ll try to go through the process of assessing exactly where he’s at and be up front,’’ Fletcher said at the press conference. “The goal in trading for him was not necessarily to get him in uniform right away. It was to add a piece and hopefully, over the next one or two or three seasons, he’ll have a positive impact on our franchise.’’
“My plan has been to come back to BU this year,’’ Coyle said. “That’s what I’ve wanted to do. I’m in no rush to go anywhere. I feel like I really want to play another year at BU. We’re going to have a better team this year with more experienced guys. I think we’ll be one of the top teams out there and have a chance to go far, and I want to be a part of that.’’