At 32 years old, Antoine Vermette has been around the league for a while. The Coyotes are the third franchise he’s played for, and he’s on his ninth NHL season.
This Quebec native was criticized in his scouting report waaaaaay back when for being “unable to remain consistent offensively at a National Hockey League level”. While Vermette was known for being fast and good at two-way play, he didn’t seem to be the kind of player who would become a big star. While he’ll never be Ovechkin, though, he’s exactly the kind of player the Coyotes have needed.
After being drafted in the second round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottowa Senators, the center remained with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for an additional two seasons, skating with the Victoriaville Tigers until 2002. While the first post-draft season yielded a 57-goal year for Vermette, though, a misdiagnosis of post-concussion syndrome during the second season prevented him from playing more than four games before making a spectacular 22-game, 26-point playoff run that saw the Tigers become the QMJHL champions. The team went on to compete in the 2002 CHL Memorial cup in Guelph, Ontario.
At the conclusion of the 2001-2002 season, Vermette finally made his way to the majors. He spent his first season playing for the Binghamton Senators, Ottowa’s AHL affiliate, where he was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team after racking up 18 goals and 20 assists. The next year, at only 21, Vermette found himself suiting up with the Sens. He would only play in three Binghamton games during the 2003-2004 season, returning to the team for one last season in 2004-2005 season due to the lockout-induced cancellation of the NHL season.
Since then, Vermette has been on a steady, if inconsistent, positively trending path through the NHL. He scored 21 goals in 05/06, 19 in 06/07, and 24 in his last full season with Ottowa during the 07/08 season. He also remained a strong faceoff player, staying high in league stats-
After three double-digit seasons in Ottowa, though, he was traded to Columbus at the trade deadline during the 2008-2009 season. The Blue Jackets were desperate to make the playoffs, and saw Vermette as the kind of player who could make this happen. He had only scored nine goals in his 62 games with the Senators that season, though; he would almost hit this number in 17 games with Columbus after being traded.“The Blue Jackets were desperate to make the playoffs, and saw Vermette as the kind of player who could make this happen.”
Whether it was due to Vermette’s arrival or not, though, Columbus managed to make the playoffs for the 2009 run. They were eliminated in a four-game sweep by Detroit, but this did little to overshadow the fact that the Western Conference team had made their first-ever playoff appearance.
Despite remaining scoreless during the playoffs, Vermette went on to have his best NHL season to date in 2009-10. He suited up for all 82 games, something he would do every year from that point on. (This, of course, excludes the 2012-2013 season, which was shortened.) He also managed to come in just under 30 goals, with an NHL career high of 27, and cranked out 38 assists.
Columbus clearly found Vermette to be an assett, and they renewed his contract upon its expiration at the end of the 2009-2010 season. This new contract, which pays the center $18.75 million dollars over five years, will expire at the end of this coming season. It won’t be up to Columbus to renew the contract, though.
On February 22, 2012, Vermette was added to the powerhouse lineup in Phoenix in a trade involving goalie Curtis McElhinney, a 2012 second-round pick, and a conditional 2013 fifth-round pick. He would go on to score five goals and put out five assists during the team’s playoff run, which saw the Coyotes advance to the Western Conference finals.
Since then, Vermette has remained a solid top-six forward for the ‘Yotes. He was most frequently paired with Mikkel Boedker and captain Shane Doan, which made for a top line that cranked out sixty-six goals during the season. He was also one of three players who skated out for every game of the season, alongside fellow linemate Boedker and rising star defenseman Keith Yandle. He scored both his second and third career hat tricks during this past season, one in January against Vancouver and one in December against the team that drafted him, back in Ottawa.
When his contract expires on July 1st of the coming year, this is one player that Arizona won’t want to let go. He’s got the experience the team needs, and still has a number of years potentially left in him. The only thing they’ll need to watch out for is his potential to have ‘off’ seasons- while he may have scored 27 goals in 2009, he only scored 19 in 2010- and during the 2011-2012 season, his combined goals for both Columbus and Arizona was only 11. Still in the double digits- but nowhere near the kind of numbers we all know he can produce.