Arizona Coyotes

Quick Look Inside The Arizona Coyotes’ Farm System

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.

Kyle Capobianco

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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

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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.

Adin Hill

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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.

Robbie Russo

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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

Arizona Coyotes Acquire Kessel

The Arizona Coyotes, on Saturday night, acquired Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a 4th round pick, in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre Olivier Joseph. 

I’ll set a scene for you. Imagine you’re excited to watch an indoor football playoff game. You’re at a bar having a couple of drinks, and your friend won’t stop blowing your phone telling you the player you’ve wanted your team to trade for was acquired by them. You immediately don’t believe them, primarily because you know your small market team would never acquire elite talent that would put them at the cap ceiling. Then find out the cost was one of your favorite players in the team. One more drink was required to come to terms with everything.

It’s happened. The thing I wanted most this offseason actually happened. I actually feel foolish that my first reaction was “not Galchenyuk.” Like a spoiled Lakers fan over Lonzo Ball when we just acquired top tier talent for him. Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oliver Joseph have been sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Cheeseburger Phil, a 4th round pick, and Dane Birks.

Cheeseburger Phil Kessel is now an Arizona Coyote, and it’s a dream come true. Our leading scorer last season was Keller with 47 points. Kessel last year scored 82. (Per NHL.com)

What Arizona desperately needed was goal scoring, and this year they added a 30 goal scorer. I was on record last season saying that Galchenyuk wasn’t a 30 goal scorer considering how he hadn’t hit that mark in two seasons. With him only scoring 19 last season, it’s safe to admit what I said a year ago. That season was a career year and not the example of his consistent talent.

Kessel has had 5 seasons of 30+ production, and 11 consecutive seasons of 20+. Kessel is legit the answer to Arizona’s scoring woes.

Add in the fact that Kessel hasn’t missed a game in 9 seasons. (per ESPN) Arizona is sure adding guys who stay healthy after last seasons horrible misfortunes.

As of right now, the Coyotes top line is Keller-Schmaltz-Kessel. Not only did Keller play his best hockey with Schmaltz last season, but you add a multiple time Stanley cup champion, and elite goal scorer to that line, and Keller has just been handed the keys to not only a bounce back season. He’s been handed the keys to a career year two days before free agency.

Factoring in the acquisition of Soderberg (another 20 goal scorer) and the rumors of possibly more moves to come, Arizona is a legitimate playoff contender. I am fully comfortable saying that this team has gotten tremendously better over just the last couple of weeks.

I’m going to miss Galchenyuk. I loved his overall game and he paired very well with my favorite player, Conor Garland.

As for Joseph, I’ve been following him the last two Coyotes rookie camps, and moving on from his services was a great idea. Last year, he was easily the best at the camp, but this year he was far from it. I noticed that he was a lot slower than the season prior. It legitimately looked like he was nursing an injury. He wasn’t skating well in the corner, his transitions were sloppy, and his passing seemed to be weaker. The only upside he still had in my eyes was his shot. He has Keith Yandle‘s shot, easily. Unfortunately, like Yandle, he’s a defenseman and not a winger. I expect defensive ability with the potential upside of providing scoring depth.

The cherry on top of the deal was the 4th round pick as a “free asset” and Birks to replace Joseph on the depth chart. Chayka made an amazing trade and has made Arizona a playoff team. 

I should mention that Kessel is 31 with 3 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $6.8M (per capfriendly) , but he’s yet to show an signs of aging to date. If he does start to regress, he’s still likely to be a 60 point player, so this is still a huge net positive.

Chayka played pot of greed bois, and +1s are usually banned in Yu-Gi-Oh!

 

Player Profiles via hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Credit: Dinur Blum

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes: Adding Some Centre Depth

With all of the free agency rumors surrounding the Arizona Coyotes, this move took me by surprise.

The Arizona Coyotes have traded away 7th defenseman Kevin Connauton and a 3rd round draft pick to the Colorado Avalanche for veteran forward Carl Soderberg.

Connauton

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Connauton is coming off of a disappointing season. He only played in 50 games, and scored 1 goal, 7 assists, a fenwick-for percentage of 46.1 and a corsi-for percentage of 46.6. His numbers are down from the 11 goals and 10 assists that he managed to put up during the previous season. His performance during the 2017-18 regular season helped him land a 2-year contract extension.

Personally, I’m not surprised about the lack of offensive production. Connauton had a career year, and was never an offensive defenseman. He’s a physical bottom pairing guy. He’s good for what he offers, but he won’t consistently produce well in the offensive zone. Plus, the Coyotes don’t feel like they want have Connauton locked into a full-time spot. In addition, the Coyotes have a few prospects like Robbie Russo, Kyle Capobianco, and Dakota Mermis, who clawing for a main roster spot. Also, Ilya Lyubshkin was playing essentially the same role as Connauton and he’s younger. Lyubshkin’s presence in Arizona made Connauton expendable.

Soderberg

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He’s 33 going on 34, has only missed 7 games in the last 5 seasons, has one year left on his contract with a $4.75 cap hit and is a 20 goal scorer. There is literally no downside to acquiring him. If he regresses badly this season, you only have to wait until the end of the season for him to be off the books. On the other hand, if he plays consistently, he’d be a great fit on the second line. If Soderberg proves that he can be consistent in his production, it’ll be seen as a great move for John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes.

Replacing Stepan?

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As for that second line center role, that’s where this gets interesting. The current second like center is Derek Stepan. Stepan is a good player coming off of a season where he only scored 15 goals, and you can’t blame that solely on the injury he suffered. The previous season, he only scored 14 goals while playing all 82 games. Unlike last season, Stepan made up for his sub-20 goal season by recording 42 assists and 56 points. A season drop from 56 points to 35 while only playing in 10 less games shows that Stepan isn’t worth his $6m cap hit.

By acquiring a new second line center on an expiring contract, that opens the door to trade away Stepan, freeing up $6m in salary. If Stepan gets moved, it’ll give Arizona $8m to work with in free agency.

While I’m a fan of Stepan, I also like the idea of being able to get a 20 goal scorer to replace him and the ability to move Stepan in an effort to free up cap space.

Good Move?

Time will tell if this move was a successful one, but on paper it’s another great move by Coyotes general manager John Chayka, and puts Arizona in a very good position. Even though the additional cap right now doesn’t make it look that way.

research from capfriendly.com

stats from hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Evaluating The Trade Between The Arizona Coyotes And Philadelphia Flyers

On the draft floor Friday night, the Arizona Coyotes chose to move up for their first round selection. The Philadelphia Flyers traded the 11th overall selection to the Arizona Coyotes for the 14th overall selection and the 45th overall selection.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes moved up to 11th overall to select Swedish defensemen Victor Söderström. Considered to be a mobile two-way defender, Söderström will help compliment a defence core that includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, with young prospects such as Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Filip Westerlund that are already knocking at the door. Having been compared to stars like Duncan Keith and Jaccob Slavin, Söderström could prove to be a steal and that seems to be what the Coyotes are thinking. Puck77’s own Niels Nielsen had Söderström ranked 8th overall as recently as April. Many hockey insiders such as Bob McKenzie and Cam Robinson had him around 14th overall in their final rankings. It is possible Söderström would have slipped to the Coyotes with the 14th overall pick, but that appears to be a risk that John Chayka and the Coyotes were unwilling to take.

Philadelphia Flyers

With the 14th selection, the Philadelphia Flyers opted to select defensemen Cameron York. From Anaheim, California, York is a smaller defensemen that plays a steady game. Compared to Mark Giordano and Zach Werenski, York adds to a young defence core in Philadelphia that already includes the likes of Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. This pick seems to be roughly where York was expected to go. York was the 12th ranked North American skater coming in. York ranked 18th in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, and Sportsnet’s Sam Costentino had him going 18th in his mock draft.

Smart Idea To Trade Up?

Ultimately, these two teams perhaps jumped on these players a few picks earlier than they were expected to go, but that is what allowed this trade to happen. Both Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka and Flyers’ general manager Chuck Fletcher knew they had their guys, and it was probably a smart idea for both guys to ensure they got the players they wanted.

Of course, the full ramifications of the trade won’t be apparent for years to come. We won’t even know for sure who the Flyers select with the other pick they acquired until Saturday afternoon.

But, there have been plenty of deals over the years of teams trading up to acquire a player that work out in interesting ways. In 2011, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded up to 22nd overall (selected Tyler Biggs). In exchange, the Anaheim Ducks acquired the 30th overall pick (selected Rickard Rakell) and 39th overall (selected John Gibson). Clearly a fortuitous move for the Anaheim Ducks in hindsight. In 2014, the Chicago Blackhawks acquired the 20th overall pick (selected Nick Schmaltz) and the 179th overall pick (selected Ivan Nalimov) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the 27th overall pick (selected Nikolay Goldobin) and the 62nd overall pick which was later traded to Nashville.

These draft floor trades seem like small decisions at the time, but ultimately can provide a big impact for these teams moving forward.

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

Importance of the 2019 Offseason for Arizona Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes finished just outside the playoffs last season, so what’s in store for the offseason.

Despite all the injuries and underperformance in the back half of the 2018-2019 season, the Arizona Coyotes still finished close to a playoff spot. A huge step forward from seasons prior. This puts the Coyotes at an interesting crossroads this off season, what is the best next step for the team? Its obvious that this core is ready to make some playoff runs, so what’s the next step to get them to that point? That is a question Coyotes general manager John Chayka should have, and most likely is asking himself ever since the season concluded.

Alex Goligoski

I’ll start with Alex Goligoski, a guy I criticized heavily last season. I saw him as a guy with good offensive streaks, but turned the puck over too much while lacking in overall defensive production. Only recording 3 goals and 24 assists in 76 games played with a -7. I dont find his production worth his 5.4m cap hit. So what to do with him? I feel the solution is obvious with his no movement clause ending after last season, attempt a trade. I’ve speculated a bit on where, but it would be logical to eat around half of the contract and ask for an AHLer for the purposes of clearing at least 2m in cap space. Leaving Arizona with a little over 10m for next season.

We dont need any NHL talent to replace Goligoski, because of how talented the Tucson Roadrunners defensive core was last season. In my opinion, Robbie Russo, who just signed a one-year extension, is NHL ready and could, in theory, fill the same role. Plus Ilya Lyubushkin is a good talent who would cost way less, and could easily share time with Russo if re-signed.

Goaltending

Most of the Arizona Coyotes fan base believe in Antti Raanta, while I remain critical and skeptical. With the rise of Darcy Kuemper and the potential that Adin Hill shown last year, from a business prospective I feel Raanta should be traded to clear up his 4.25m cap hit.

I’ve already speculated and supported the idea that they call up Florida to make the deal happen, considering their goaltending needs. With a recent rumor involving Matt Duchene, I don’t feel Arizona needs to get a top 6 forward anymore. Just get some value that makes sense for the direction of the team.

Forwards

There’s been a lot of speculation involving Arizona and forward talent. Easy choice is to let Richard Panik walk, as that’s saving money on a guy who didn’t have much of an impact on the team.

From there, there’s a lot of directions they could go. Matt Duchene is the most recent rumor. Being a consistent 20 goal scorer, (with a couple of 30 goal years in the mix.) Duchene would fill a need Arizona desperately needs filled. A top 6, 20 goal scorer.

The other rumor is acquiring Patrick Marleau and an “Elite Prospect.” If they go that route, Kasperi Kapanen is the only guy I realistically see Toronto letting go to free up the cap space Marleau occupies to re-sign Mitch Marner.

If they go the Duchene route, you get a damn good top 6 forward to pair with Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz on that first line, or even pair with Alex Galchenyuk and Conor Garland on the second. Both are interesting ideas that will improve goal scoring production in the top 6.

If they go the Marleau route, you can easily put him on the third line to replace Richard Panik. Playing alongside Brad Richardson and Vinnie Hinostroza. Then place Kapanen on the right wing of the first line with Keller and Schmaltz. This would still give the first line a weapon to pair with Keller and hopefully get him going this year. Marleau would he a good third liner, providing some depth scoring and a healthy body.

Conclusion

The 2019 off season could very well define John Chayka’s legacy in Arizona.

There is a lot of moves to be made, and this will decide whether or not this core can make a cup run. It’s time for playoff hockey to return to Glendale, and it’s Arizona’s opportunity to squander.

stats provided by hockey-reference.com

cap figures via capfriendly.com

Featured Image Credit: Josh Tessler