I’ve maintained for some time that the Arizona Coyotes have one of, if not the deepest farm systems in the league.
With so much young talent being developed, which player within the organization is most likely to have a break-out season next year? Which minor leaguer will crack the NHL this season, becoming a regular? I’ve narrowed it down to a few players that are likely to do it.
I’ll start off with the least likely, at least in terms of highly talented players in the organization. Reason being, Capobianco suffered a season ending lower body injury after 2 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season.
Before his call up, Capobianco was a top 4 defenseman for the Tucson Roadrunners. In 40 games last season, he recorded 7 goals, 25 assists and 32 points. Nearly a point per game. Definitely on track to translate into a 40 point player at the NHL level.
He’s not an offensive defenseman per say. He’s more of a two way defender. The top 4 defenseman recorded a +9 in 2017-2018 and a +10 in 2018-2019 for the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL. Showing true versatility as a player. He’s able to quarterback a power play and shut down opposing offenses.
If he recovers properly from his injury, he should still be in a position to make a run for the NHL roster. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait and see how everything goes during training camp.
Michael Bunting is another kid I think has a shot to crack the NHL roster this season. The 23 year-old winger had a brief 5 game stint last season, after all of the injuries. He scored 1 goal and played a good two-way game in that short stint.
While in Tucson, Bunting was part of the top 6. He spent a lot of his time playing alongside line-mate Hudson Fasching. Bunting played in 52 games and scored 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points. He was approaching a point per game production at the AHL level.
After his display last season in Tuscon, I think he’s ready to move up to the NHL this year.
This one has a lot to do with my speculation that Arizona moves away from the Antti Raanta contract this offseason. Regardless of what happens there, for a stretch last season, Hill stepped up big time and got key wins for Arizona. In 13 games, Hill posted a record of 7-5-0, a 2.76 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
I noticed a lot of flaws in his game, that I don’t necessarily feel he’s been correcting in Tucson. Those being primarily letting in too many easy goals, and flopping around in the net. Hill needs to have more polished butterfly positioning for him to be effective long-term. If he addressed those issues, he should be a decent back-up goalie next year.
Russo is the best on this list, and is the most likely to break out. Being acquired from the Red Wings over the summer of 2018 in exchange for a 7th round pick, Russo was a huge steal. Russo played in 67 games for the Tucson Roadrunners, scoring 6 goals and 33 assists. He managed to tie his career high in points at the AHL level with 39 points. Needless to say, Russo has the scoring touch. He’s scored 30+ points in all 4 of his AHL seasons. With this consistency, I have full confidence to say that he is a talented offensive defense man.
He’s also a talented defender. In 19 games for the Detroit Red Wings, Russo has maintained a +2, and tallied 13 blocks. At the AHL level, in 263 games, Russo has maintained a ridiculous +73. Add in the fact, that he took on more of a leadership role as an alternate captain for the Roadrunners, and they remained in the playoff hunt until the final game of the season. There is just a lot of upside with this guy.
Russo is 26 years-old. If he’s going to break into the league, this is his chance.
stats from theAHL.com, eliteprospects.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler