Anton Khudobin had a very, very bad debut for the Anaheim Ducks and a good part of the credit goes to Arizona's deadly young duo of Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. Duclair, acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle deal last year, scored his first NHL hat trick last night en route to a 4-0 lightning-strike Coyotes win in Anaheim.
The contributions of Arizona's youngest players were a great sign for the franchise, which has a bright future on the near horizon.
The master plan all along was for several young players to make the roster this fall, as GM Don Maloney told me at the draft combine. The kids would have to earn their spots of course, but at least the hope of a job was real. Duclair, Domi and Jordan Martinook (who did big work on the penalty kill last night) all made the cut and center Dylan Strome – just taken third overall in the draft this summer – got a very long look before getting sent back to OHL Erie.
The Coyotes had been infamous for rushing youngsters in the past during the Wayne Gretzky era and Maloney was well aware of the history, but this time was different. All three of the players who made the cut are 20 or older (Martinook is 23) and have lots of experience. Duclair and Domi were an integral force in Canada's thrilling gold-medal victory over Russia at the 2015 world juniors and Duclair already had 18 NHL games under his belt from his New York times last season. Both Domi and Duclair had each played for at least one Memorial Cup, too.
So it's no surprise they are playing with confidence early on. In last night's rout of a potential Stanley Cup contender, the two offensive hot-shots tied for the team lead with five shots on goal each. Both players are insanely fast and the Ducks just couldn't keep up with them (Domi had one goal himself and could have had at least one more on a breakaway). According to Elias Sports, Duclair's hat trick was the first by a Coyotes rookie since Daniel Carcillo in 2008.
Though the two played on different lines, they did hook up on the power play. Check out Domi's speed to set up his buddy:
The best part if you're a Coyotes fan? There's more on the way. Strome is the future No. 1 center of this franchise and is already putting in work on his second straight OHL scoring title: he's got six points in his first two games since returning to the Otters.
Elsewhere, Max Letunov, a brainy and gifted freshman with UConn, kicked off his NCAA career with a hat trick (he was acquired from St. Louis for Zbynek Michalek), while 2015 second-rounder Christian Fischer has been a force up front for OHL Windsor. And Christian Dvorak, Domi's former center in OHL London, has nine points in five games for the Knights.
Are the Coyotes set for the future? Not quite. They still need a few more blueliners to emerge, but with so much offensive firepower in the system, trades can be made in that regard – that's why you stockpile talent in the first place.
And based on the early returns from Domi and Duclair, this season may not be as painful in the desert as we first expected.