|Sam Gagner – C||Mike Ribeiro – C|
|Joe Vitale – C||Radim Vrbata – RW|
|B.J Crombeen – RW||Thomas Greiss – G|
|Devan Dubnyk – G||Tim Kennedy – LW|
|Derek Morris – D|
|Paul Bissonnette – LW|
After winning just two playoff series (qualified eight times) in 15 seasons as the Phoenix Coyotes, the franchise is now known as the Arizona Coyotes (Click HERE for ARI Cap Situation). Maybe a name change is just what they need to establish a winning culture in Arizona, maybe it won’t matter?
In 2013-14 the Coyotes finished fourth in the Pacific Division with a 37-30-15 record (89 points). A lot of their success relies on strong play from their goaltender Mike Smith. Smith missed some with a knee injury in 2013-14, but his 2.64 GAA and .915 SV% were not good enough last season. He battled inconsistency throughout the season, but should be in for a better season in 2014-15. Smith will have a new back-up this season, after Thomas Greiss fled for Pittsburgh and the Coyotes signed Devan Dubnyk to a one-year deal. Smith stands at 6-foot-4, Dubynk is 6-foot-6… That’s a whole lot of goalie.
The Coyotes lost two of their top 5 scorers this offseason. Radim Vrbata (20G / 31A) hit the free-agent market and signed with the Canucks and Mike Ribeiro (16G / 31A) was bought-out and recently signed with the Predators. To replace Ribeiro the ‘Yotes traded a sixth-round pick for Sam Gagner. The 24-year-old pivot missed the start of the season with a broken jaw, but finished the year with 37 points (10G / 27A) in 67 games. Gagner should slide onto the Coyotes second or third line and a change of scenery could be exactly what he needed to reach the potential the Oilers saw when they picked him sixth overall in 2007.
The biggest loss for Arizona was the departure of Vrbata. He is not a household name, but he was an extremely reliable winger over the last five seasons with the Coyotes. Captain Shane Doan fell below 50 points for the first time since 2001-02, but much of that can be attributed to the time he missed with Rocky Mountain Fever. Expect Doan to get back to a 20-plus goal, 50-plus point season in 2014-15.
Where you will find you fantasy gold in Arizona, is on the blueline. Keith Yandle, 27, led the Coyotes in scoring last season with 53 points (8G / 45A), which tied him with P.K Subban for fifth amongst NHL D-men. The other gem they have on the back-end is 22-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He was fifth in goals amongst blueliners with 15 and his 44 points was good for 14th. Both were career-highs for the young Swede, who has improved every season and 2014-15 should see him grow even further. Both Yandle and Ekman-Larsson will be within the first 10 defensemen off of the board this season.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Coyotes Fantasy Players)
- Keith Yandle – D
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson – D
- Mike Smith – G
- Mikkel Boedker – LW
- Martin Hanzal – C
- Shane Doan – RW
- Antoine Vermette – C
- Sam Gagner – C
Click HERE for the Coyotes potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: Coyotes finish fourth in the Pacific for the second straight year, battling San Jose and Minnesota for the last Wild Card spot in the West.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks,
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