Great Dane? Rookie Coyotes winger's on his way!

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

PHOENIX -- It's no longer a tryout for Mikkel Boedker.

Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky isn't sure it ever was.

Just 18 years old, Boedker can suit up for three more games and return to the junior ranks without his pro contract kicking in. But with three goals in his first six NHL games, and a recent promotion to the top line, that's pretty unlikely.

"Boedker's going nowhere," The Great One said with a laugh yesterday before the Calgary Flames tangled with his Coyotes in Phoenix.

"Until you officially get to those 10 games, it's unofficial, but we basically told Kitchener the day we drafted him that you could pretty much give away his sweater number. He really wasn't coming back."

Boedker is the youngest of five rookies playing in the desert this season.

He might prove to be the best.

Gretzky says the Dane reminds him of a cross between Russian sniper Alexander Mogilny and burner Pavel Bure. Thankful the Coyotes landed him eighth overall at the draft in June, Gretzky sees big things in the youngster's future.

"He fell into our lap. We got a little bit lucky at the draft, so many teams needed defence," said Gretzky. "He fits what we need. A guy that's got some excitement, some pizzazz. A guy that can change the game, as he did the other night when we were down 1-0 (Thursday night against the Washington Capitals).

"He's been exceptional. He could easily have seven or eight goals. He missed some good chances. He's going to get a lot of goals.

"I think he's going to have an outstanding career in this league because he loves to play."

What's not to love? Straight from an appearance in the Memorial Cup final with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers to a line with one of the best centres in the NHL in Olli Jokinen.

"It helps you get in a rhythm pretty fast," Boedker said of playing alongside the veteran pivot. "I know I'm young, but I think by playing with the older guys and having other young guys in the room here, it helps a lot.

"It's unbelievable. Every day, I can't stop smiling. It's the best. It's a dream come true, right?"

Officially, that will be true when he dresses in his tenth game next month.

When you're averaging almost 17 minutes a night and putting in time on the penalty kill as a rookie, that's not a concern.

Even Gretzky, as a fresh-faced 17-year-old playing for the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA back in 1978-79, faced a bigger drop in ice time after his jump from junior.

"They didn't keep times back then. They probably had those clocks filled with sand -- 'OK, that's a minute and a half, get off,' " Gretzky joked.

"I remember my first 10, 12 games, I was playing three minutes a period.

"Your ice time slowly picks up. It's just a process."

Boedker's defensive skills -- a critical aspect of the game for today's young players -- have already been developed by an NHL coach in Florida Panthers boss Peter DeBoer, who coached junior in Kitchener last season.

"Defensively, he's really solid," said Gretzky. "A lot of times, guys will tell you, when young guys come into the league, the one thing you worry about is the pace of picking up defensive responsibilities."

So far, the only speed Boedker is having trouble wrapping his mind around is how quickly things have happened since hearing his name called in Ottawa.

"Really, really fast," Boedker said, flashing a broad and humble smile. "I'm just going with the flow right now. It's special, but I'm just trying to suck it all in and enjoy it.

"Hopefully one day, it'll hit me that I'm playing in the NHL."

That ought to happen a few games from now when his rookie year becomes official.


Videos

Photos