In 2016-17 the Arizona Coyotes missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season after going 30-42-10 and finishing sixth in the Pacific Division.
The Coyotes have an influx of young prospects who are expected to make the jump to the NHL this season and could start to tip the scales back in Arizona’s favour in the next few seasons. Dylan Strome started last year with the Coyotes but only lasted seven games. Upon returning to Erie (OHL), the 20-year-old had 75 points (22G / 53A) in just 35 games and added 34 points (22G / 14A) in 22 playoff contests. Strome will likely battle for a top-6 role along with fellow former first round pick Clayton Keller (No.7 overall in 2016). Keller, 19, had 45 points (21G / 24A) in 31 games at Boston University last season and picked up two helpers in three games with the Coyotes after turning pro. Both of them are projected to be real difference makers in the NHL, but they might be one year away from being true forces in fantasy circles.
In addition to a pair of first round picks coming up, the Coyotes made a couple big trades this summer. First they parted ways with longtime goaltender Mike Smith, trading him to Calgary and then they brought in Henrik Lundqvist’s former backup Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan in from the Rangers. Raanta will get a shot to be a No.1 starter for the first time in his career and comes in after going 16-8-2 with a 2.26 GAA and .922 SV% last year. The Rangers were eager to get rid of Stepan and his $6.5M AAV contract, but the money won’t affect the talent needy Coyotes. Stepan was an extremely consistent producer in New York and comes to Arizona having recorded 50-plus points in four straight seasons—he is tied for 32nd in the NHL in assists (148) and 44th in points (221) over that span.
The Coyotes will be aided by Max Domi returning to full health—he missed 23 games last year. Domi is arguably the Coyotes’ best forward, but they really need Anthony Duclair to return to the form he showed in 2015-16. Last season was a disaster for the 22-year-old, who ended up with just eight points (1G / 7A) in 16 games with Tucson (AHL).
On the blueline, the Coyotes are a very similar group to last season. The one change they made was bringing in Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago and the hard-nosed defenseman is expected to play huge minutes on their top pair with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. A cause for concern in Arizona is last year’s first round pick Jakob Chychrun will miss a large portion of the season after undergoing knee surgery in early-August. The Coyotes are expected to release a full timetable on Chychrun when training camp kicks off in September.
Smith had a couple of tough years, but he can’t be entirely to blame for the Coyotes’ recent struggles. The Coyotes have given up the 11th most shots (30.4 S/GP) over the last five seasons and Raanta will leaned on heavily this season. Despite never starting more than 26 games in a single season, Raanta looks ready to be a full-time starter. Of all the netminders who have appeared in at least 60 games over the last three seasons, Raanta ranks third in the NHL in SV% (.924)—trailing just Carey Price and Matt Murray. Louis Domingue is back as Arizona’s backup, but should see limited action.
The Coyotes are definitely headed in the right direction. They have young, up and coming forwards, one of the best offensive-defenseman in the world, a great young defenseman and now a potential No.1 goalie of the future. However, they are still at least one or two years away (minimum) from battling for a playoff spot again. They won’t be the worst team in the Pacific Division, but they’ll be bottom feeders.
- Anaheim Ducks
- Arizona Coyotes
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson-#52 (#10 D)
- Max Domi-#115 (#21 LW)
- Antti Raanta-#122 (#20 G)
- Dylan Strome-#123 (#35 C)
- Derek Stepan-#164 (#45 C)
- Alex Goligoski-#180 (#41 D)
- Clayton Keller-#199 (#37 LW)
- Christian Dvorak-#236 (#56 C)
- Brendan Perlini-#307 (#60 LW)
- Tobias Rieder-#308 (#59 RW)
- Anthony Duclair-#314 (#63 LW)