The Arizona Coyotes sputtered to a 29-41-12 record in 2017-18. The Coyotes struggled to find the back of the net, scoring the second-fewest goals in the league. Rookie sensation Clayton Keller was the lone bright spot in an otherwise desolate season. He registered 23 goals and 42 assists across a full 82 games but conceded the Calder Trophy to Mathew Barzal. Arizona finished third last in the NHL, but an unfortunate draft lottery gave them the No. 5 overall pick. They used the selection on centre Barret Hayton of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Hayton joins a long list of high-end Coyote prospects that are slowly starting to come into their own. It might take a few more painful seasons to get there, but better days are ahead for the Yotes.
➕ Alex Galchenyuk (Trade)
➕ Vinnie Hinostroza (Trade)
➕ Jordan Oesterle (Trade)
➕ Michael Grabner (Free Agency)
➕ Barrett Hayton (Draft)
Keller makes a shift to the middle as he’s set to centre Arizona’s top line on opening night. The 20-year-old phenom is a natural centre but played over 800 minutes on Derek Stepan’s wing last season. He is a crafty playmaker and can carry a line on his own, so the move makes sense. Keller has all the talent necessary to make the transition flawlessly. Brendan Perlini and Vince Hinostroza are the lucky two wingers that get to skate with Keller in the opener. Perlini and Keller played just under 200 minutes together at 5v5 last year, so there is some chemistry there. The Coyotes outscored their opponents 15-6 when Keller and Perlini were on the ice. Hinostroza will make his Coyotes’ debut after putting up 25 points in 50 games for the Blackhawks a year ago. He was traded to Arizona last July in a package that centered around the contract of Marian Hossa.
The second line of Derek Stepan, Christian Fischer, and Richard Panik is a new look for Arizona. After spending last season anchoring the top line, Stepan falls to the line two in favour of Keller. He registered 56 points has recorded at least 30 assists in five straight seasons. Fischer, a former second-round pick in 2015, impressed in his first full NHL season. He scored 15 goals and added 18 assists despite playing under 14 minutes a night. One of he or Panik will be forced to drop out of the top-six once the newly-acquired Alex Galchenyuk is healthy.
Panik had 17 points in 35 games for Arizona after being acquired from the Blackhawks in exchange for Anthony Duclair. Dylan Strome and Lawson Crouse highlight a young bottom-six for Arizona. The two 2015 first-rounders have struggled to transition to the pro level. The potential is still there, but Arizona would love to see them figure it out sooner than later. 2019 will be a telling year for their development.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson highlights what is an otherwise lackluster defensive corps. He scored 14 goals and added 28 assists last season. He’s never been one to rack up assists from the blueline, but he can score with the best of them. He’s scored at least 12 goals in five straight seasons. He signed an eight-year contract extension in June and is set to play big minutes to start the season, given the absence of Jakub Chychrun. Chychrun is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last April. While there’s no firm timetable set, he is expected to make his season debut before the end of October. Veteran Jason Demers will skate on the top pair in the interim. The former Shark registered 20 points in 69 games last season and had the highest CF% of any Coyotes’ blueliner.
Alex Goligoski will continue to hold down Arizona’s second-pair this season. The longtime Dallas Star has recorded 36 and 35 points in his two seasons as a Coyote. He is incredibly consistent and his production justifies his spot on the Coyotes’ second powerplay unit. After 10 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Niklas Hjalmarsson played just 48 games in his first season in Arizona. Despite his durability issues, the Coyotes signed Hjalmarsson a two-year contract extension in June. His defensive playstyle is a nice complement to Goligoski. Kevin Connauton and Jordan Oesterle will have to compete for a spot in the lineup once Chychrun returns from injury. Connauton had 21 points in 73 games for Arizona last season. Oesterle registered five goals and 10 assists in 55 contests for the Blackhawks. He has offensive upside and could fill in on the powerplay for OEL or Goligoski should either of them miss time.
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, no goalie in the NHL has a higher SV% than Antti Raanta. The Finnish netminder is coming off another stellar year that saw him post a .930 SV% and 2.24 GAA. He has proven himself to be an elite goaltender but playing for Arizona limits his win potential. Still, he is consistent as any goalie in the league and could singlehandedly accelerate Arizona’s rebuild. Despite all his success he’s never made more than 47 starts in a season. Durability and conditioning are the keys to a breakout season for Raanta. Darcy Kuemper proved himself to be a competent backup with the Wild and Kings, but struggled after being acquired by the Coyotes last season. He should be better than the .899 SV% he posted for Arizona, but don’t expect him to threaten Raanta for playing time.
|Clayton Keller (27)||Clayton Keller (44)||Clayton Keller (71)||Ekman-Larsson (9)|
|Brendan Perlini (22)||Derek Stepan (38)||Derek Stepan (56)||Alex Galchenyuk (8)|
|Alex Galchenyuk (21)||Alex Goligoski (29)||Alex Galchenyuk (49)||Clayton Keller (7)|
- 47. Clayton Keller — LW9
- 84. Oliver Ekman-Larsson — D18
- 110. Antti Raanta — G19
- 173. Derek Stepan — C39
- 197. Alex Goligoski — D51
- 213. Alex Galchenyuk — C49
- 254. Dylan Strome — C55
- 267. Jakob Chychrun — D70
- 286. Brendan Perlini — LW47
- 291. Christian Dvorak — C63
Predicted Pacific Standings
The Coyotes are trending in the right direction. With a solid young core, depth down the middle, two stars on the blueline and one of the NHL’s best goalies, there are better days ahead. Locked in the terribly-difficult Pacific, they will likely find themselves near the bottom of the division for another year.