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The Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers swapped minor-leaguers earlier today, with the Coyotes picking up goaltender Marc Cheverie while the Panthers added Justin Bernhardt.

Is either player of interest as an NHL prospect?

Cheverie went in the final round of the 2006 Draft, the second-last goaltender to be selected that year.  At 6’2”, he has a decent frame for the position, and his record prior to turning professional has some nice points.  After two seasons in the BCHL, Cheverie made the jump to the University of Denver.  He started out as the backup to Peter Mannino (last seen getting a cup of coffee with the Islanders) before moving into the starting job.  Cheverie posted strong save percentage numbers over two seasons (0.921 in 2008-09, followed by a 0.932 in 2009-10).

His first year as a professional did not go nearly as well.  He put up a sub-0.900 SV% in both the ECHL and AHL, and saw wild swings in performance.  After a run in the AHL during which Cheverie managed 0.900+ SV% performances in five of six games (making 31, 43, 38, 36 and 40 saves in those appearances) he allowed 15 goals over his next three starts.

Still, it’s only one season.  Rookie professionals often struggle; the jump to the AHL or even the ECHL can be difficult.  Additionally, no young player develops in a straight line and goaltenders in particular can be erratic.  Cheverie is a long-shot, but he’s not written off yet and the Coyotes stand a chance of being pleasantly surprised this coming season.

Cheverie is signed to a one-year deal that will pay him $62,500 in the minors or a hair over $800,000 in the NHL.

Justin Bernhardt never was drafted, despite some decent numbers in his draft year and decent reviews from Central Scouting.  He put up decent totals in the WHL, possesses decent size, and reportedly plays a pretty decent two-way game (there’s a pattern here).  Bernhardt just finished his second professional season, which he spent mired in the ECHL (where he had a lousy scoring run – 48 shots in his last 22 games resulted in just two goals, and he had just six goals overall on 94 shots.  He’s in the last season of his entry-level contract.

Bernhardt’s a longer shot than Cheverie – the league has seen plenty of very good goaltenders (Olaf Kolzig comes to mind) emerge from the ECHL but it’s a long run for a forward to make the same journey.

This probably isn’t a trade that is going to have much in the way of major ramifications down the road, but Cheverie’s the better bet for the role of diamond in the rough.

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