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Five-year forecast: your 2023-24 Arizona Coyotes

Recent drafts will be crucial to any future success the Desert Dogs may experience. In the second instalment of our summer series, we take a look at Arizona's future outlook - one that probably doesn't include Phil Kessel.

Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.

Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included - so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Arizona.

FORWARDS

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The good news is that Phil Kessel is under contract for the next three years and will likely continue to be an effective scorer during that time. After that, who knows? But he probably won’t be in Arizona by the time this five-year preview kicks in. The Coyotes do have Schmaltz and Dvorak under contract until then, so that’s basically a guarantee. Otherwise, look for a lot of the kids to be regulars.

DEFENSE

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With ‘OEL’ locked in until 2027 and Chychrun until 2025, the Coyotes have some nice certainty on the back end. Look for 2019 first-rounder Victor Soderstrom to be a mainstay on the top pairing, while the giant Bahl can provide great defensive reach. This group has a very nice balance of skill sets.

GOALIES

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Let’s take this past season as an indicator of what Kuemper can do as a starter and assume that Arizona plunks down some coin on him once his current deal expires next summer. Look for the acrobatic Prosvetov in the back-up job. He has the chops to succeed Kuemper eventually.

In general, Arizona’s future looks to be tied to the success of a few young players: Keller, Hayton and Soderstrom. Keller already has a 65-point season in the NHL, but he’ll need to bump that up in the future, especially if Kessel’s gone. Hayton has the profile of a No. 1 center; it’s just a matter of developing into that role. Like the present, there are no guarantees in the Coyotes’ future but the situation is far from desolate.

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