The trouble with the rebuild process is that they will need these young players to take the initiative to excel in order for this team to win right away and be a playoff team and it just feels like they are just that franchise forward away from being that team.
Until that franchise forward emerges and takes the lead, this will be Oliver Ekman-Larsson's team and it will go as far as he can take them, in essence.
With the buyout of Antoine Vermette, at the beginning of August, they have acknowledged that they can keep spots open for players like Dylan Strome and/or Christian Dvorak and not worry about keeping his cap hit around. These will be the guys that could make an impact, both for the team's playoff chances and in the hockey pool. Get a good look at Coyotes camp, when it rolls around at the end of September and keep an eye on the kids, they could be worth the gamble.
Table last updated on August 8th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
The speedy Tobias Rieder is still flying under the radar of sorts, but a pretty good 2016 season has him right in the thick of things in Arizona and he should be a pretty important piece of the puzzle moving forward.
I'm not convinced that this is the season that everything comes together for the Coyotes, but it will be a season where we'll all see flashes of what this team is capable of and Rieder will be one of those players that really makes a splash and we take notice of him. There is a good chance that he will end up being a good bargain player in the hockey pool this coming season.
First Round Picks
It is going to be compete by committee in the 2017 season, so I don't think we'll see any opening round picks this year, but we could see a player or two step up for the Coyotes, making us think twice or three times about the draft for the 2018 season. That's another story for another time.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
In one of my early mock drafts, according to my projections, the Arizona forwards were not popping up until the 7th round, so there was no rush to jump on them. They certainly have a cast of characters that will be fun to cheer for, but there isn't much in the team that convinces me that they will be better than 7th round picks yet. Max Domi, Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan, Anthony Duclair, Jamie McGinn and possibly Dylan Strome, all have the potential for helping your pool team, but don't get caught picking them too early.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The onus on the blueline has been working quite well for a few teams in the NHL, Nashville being one of the prime examples, so it should come as no surprise that a team like the Coyotes would follow that model and build from the back. Behind Ekman-Larsson, they are assembling a decent core group, including Michael Stone, Alex Goligoski and Connor Murphy. All three are increasing in pool potential and this year will be a good stepping stone to bigger and better things.
When Mike Smith lost 40 games to a lower-body injury this season, Louis Domingue stepped up and played exceptionally well in his place. Smith had a slightly better record in a few less games for the Coyotes last season, which gives him the edge to start the season, but Domingue is hot on his heels, likely licking his chops for another shot at taking over the job. Both are definitely pool worthy, but pick accordingly.
Team To Pick From?
If you're looking for some high risk picks for some high rewards, then the Coyotes are definitely one of those teams that you can look towards for that big payoff. If you believe that this youth movement really has some traction, then those late sleepers here are the way to go. If your ideal is better safe than sorry, I think you can find a better team to find some late round action from.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Well, that intriguing/break out player would be far more intriguing if he had a contract to play with. As of this post, Tobias Rieder still sits on the shelf without a deal, but when he gets that new contract... look out!
After filling out a projected 23-man roster with some of their young prospects, taking into account the contracts for both Pavel Datsyuk and Chris Pronger, not forgetting about the buyouts on the books, the Coyotes still have $6.3 million left under the cap ceiling.
Defenseman Michael Stone, one of the pool worthy defenders, may not be 100% when the season gets started in mid-October, as he is recovering from knee surgery after blowing both his ACL & MCL before the end of the 2016 season. His goal is to be ready to go, but the player and team have acknowledged that he may not be ready.