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Prospect Pool Overview: Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have some promising young faces, but are still in a rebuild. Tony Ferrari looks at what the team has, needs and who to keep an eye out for.
Victor Soderstrom

The NHL off-season is in full swing, giving us the perfect opportunity to look at each team’s prospect pools. Any player who no longer holds rookie eligibility in the NHL is considered graduated and no longer considered a prospect for the purposes of these exercises. 

In this series, Tony Ferrari will dig into each team’s strengths and weaknesses, a quick overview of their latest draft class, where each team's positional depth chart stands, and who could be next in line for an NHL roster spot.

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The Arizona Coyotes went into the draft with a glut of draft capital and used it to bolster their prospect pool and strengthen their biggest weakness coming into the draft - the center position. This team is about a decade into its rebuild with some unstable ownership and management thrown into the mix along the way. Unfortunately, that means that they have had some misses and odd decisions along the way. Thankfully, they seem to be on the right path now. 

The Coyotes have a couple of young players on the roster in Barrett Hayton up front and Janis Jérôme Moser on the back end, but they have a lot of journeymen-type players as well. This could be a good thing for many of the team's top prospects because NHL clubs are a bit more inclined to displace a journeyman for a young player than they would be if there were a large group of legacy players to the franchise.

The Coyotes are at an interesting phase in their rebuild. They likely aren’t good enough to take the next step towards competing so they have to choose whether the NHL experience for players such as Victor Söderström and Dylan Guenther is going to be good for their development or risk of overwhelming them and stunting their growth. This could be a year of allowing the youth to sink or swim or they could opt to allow their youth to develop one more year at the junior or AHL levels and ride the journeymen players through their first season at Arizona State University.

Regardless of what they choose regarding roster construction for the upcoming season, the Yotes are very much in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Adding one of the top-end talents from the loaded 2023 draft would make this somewhat underwhelming prospect pool look much better.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (3 Overall) - Logan Cooley, C, U.S. National Development Team [USHL] Round 1 (11 Overall) - Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice [WHL]
Round 1 (29 Overall) - Maveric Lamoureux, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs [QMJHL] Round 2 (36 Overall) - Artyom Duda, D, Krasnaya Armiya [MHL]
Round 2 (43 Overall) - Julian Lutz, L, Munich EHC [DEL]
Round 3 (67 Overall) - Miko Matikka, R, Jokerit (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 3 (94 Overall) - Jeremy Langlois, D, Cape Breton Eagles [QMJHL]
Round 5 (131 Overall) - Matthew Morden, D, St. Andrews College (Ontario H.S.)
Round 6 (163 Overall) - Maksymilian Szuber, D, Munich EHC [DEL]
Round 7 (204 Overall) - Adam Zlnka, R, Sioux Falls Stampede [USHL]

Starting their draft strong by selecting their number one center of the future in Logan Cooley. The top player from this year’s U.S. U18 program is a dynamic two-way center that can dish and dangle with the best of them to go along with underappreciated finishing ability. He may very well be the highest upside forward in the draft class while also presenting a very safe floor as a top-six forward.

They followed that up by utilizing their overflowing pantry of draft picks to trade up to pick number 11 and select Conor Geekie from the Winnipeg Ice. Blending puck skill, offensive prowess, and 200-foot intelligence with his 6-foot-4 frame, Geekie has the size and skill combination that is rare in the NHL today. If he can get his skating up to par, the sky is the limit for him.

After making a trade to take on Zach Kassian from the Edmonton Oilers to move up a few spots in the draft from 32 to 29th overall, Arizona took hulking 6-foot-8 defender Maveric Lamoureux from Drummondville in the QMJHL to cap their first round. A defensively stout blueliner who could be a force in his own end when he fills out his frame.

The second round featured their first two picks from overseas as they selected Russian offensive defender Artyom Duda and German two-way forward Julian Lutz. Duda was a powerplay aficionado who took advantage of the opportunities he was given to put up some solid production. Lutz was injured for much of the year but plays a pro-style game and was the offensive catalyst for the German U18 squad.

In round three, the Coyotes continued adding talent with two more picks in the top-100. Finnish winger Miko Matikka was added at the top of the third round, bringing a big shot and physicality to the prospect pool. Towards the end of the round, they added defender Jérémy Langlois who has some quality tools that are on display defending the rush and retrieving pucks in his own zone. Langlois also has some interesting offensive tendencies, but his overall upside is up in the air a bit.

Strengths

The Arizona prospect pool isn’t quite as strong as you’d expect considering that they’ve been rebuilding for almost a decade, especially heading into the 2022 NHL draft but they did an excellent job of bolstering their center depth as of late. The NCAA free agent additions Jack McBain and Nathan Smith to go along with their top two draft choices in Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie, the Coyotes suddenly have a nice stable of pivots. Throw in some of the depth options down the middle, such as John Farinacci and Manix Landry, and they also have some depth at the position.

Barrett Hayton is still just 22 years old as well and although he is no longer considered a prospect for this exercise, he seems poised to establish himself as an NHLer this year. Three years from now, a Cooley-Geekie-Hayton-McBain/Smith quartet of centers could look quite formidable.

Weaknesses

The Coyotes need scoring wingers beyond Dylan Guenther. The wingers beyond Guenther in the prospect pool, on both the left and right side, project more as middle-six wingers who lack some of the offensive punch a team needs to complement their centers. While Josh Doan and Julian Lutz both look like interesting and projectable NHLers, they likely lack the upside to play on the team's top-line, even in a fill-in role. Thankfully, the winger position is the easiest to fill through free agency and the draft.

Next Man Up: RD Victor Söderström

Had it not been for the lower body injury that Dylan Guenther is dealing with, the offensive dynamo would have likely been the obvious choice here. With that uncertainty, Söderström seems like the best bet to crack the NHL roster full-time to start the season. The young Swedish defenseman has had a couple of short stints with the NHL club the last two seasons but has yet to break through and solidify his spot.

Söderström plays a very understated game. He lacks the flash and flair of the game's top defensemen, but he brings the stability often sought by many teams looking to contend. Söderström defends transition well, breaking down play intelligently and making the best decision quickly, whether closing a gap or making a breakout pass. Söderström is a very strong skater who can affect play in all three zones but tends to deviate to the high-skill forwards in the offensive zone. With the lack of talent on the Coyotes’ right side, Söderström looks like a lock to nail down one of the spots on the blueline coming out of training camp.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Mattias Maccelli, Julian Lutz
C: Logan Cooley, Conor Geekie, Jack McBain
RW: Dylan Guenther, Josh Doan
LD: Artyom Duda, Vladislav Kolyachonok
RD: Victor Söderström, Maveric Lamoureux
G: Ivan Prosvetov

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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