With something old rolling into town, it may not have been a better time to drive some hype, than now, with a bunch of new faces and a little bit more excitement surrounding this club, moving into the 2019 season.
The Coyotes have been busy again in this off-season, still cleaning up some other team's messes here and there, but overall, they've seemingly found players that give the impression that they could be a little bit quicker and a little bit grittier on the ice, not very far off the initial model of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Coyotes have had a lot longer to prepare, they have a number of draft picks in their system that are jumping at the chance to finally make it, but will they?
We've been writing off the Coyotes for a long time, some of had a little bit more hope than others at the start of some years and I'm not going to say that I will be one of those people right here and right now, but I will offer up the thought that it could be a possibility.
Maybe the better perspective would be, I think that they have improved their team, but dare I say how much?
Table last updated on August 6th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
The fall of Alex Galchenyuk in Montreal has been well-documented and arguably, fair in some points. Like, for instance, living up to expectations. The 3rd overall pick in the 2012 entry draft has been far from living up to those high expectations in Montreal, but the counterpoint is that Montreal is a tough market to play in.
There in lies the intrigue of the move down to the desert, a much softer market to play in, but a market desperately in need for some flash and dash, something that Galchenyuk could certainly offer. I think he could do really well in Arizona and he could have the players to play with too.
First Round Picks
As exciting as the Coyotes may or may not be this season, they still just don't seem to be the team that will harness the scoring abilities of some of their top players to their peak potential. So, I wouldn't be looking for these guys in the opening round of the draft quite yet.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
There is real potential in these Coyotes to break through some of these projections that I have on them at the moment, as they are reasonably conservative today. Clayton Keller's sophomore season does slide his numbers a little bit, but if there was a guy that could avoid the slump, it could be him. Derek Stepan, Christian Dvorak and Dylan Strome all have the potential to be reasonable forwards in the hockey pool, but the latter two might be better served as later picks.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
The Arizona blueline, however, that does have some good pickups on it and these are the guys that might drive the bus, when the season is all said and done. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was rewarded with a big contract extension in the off-season and he'll lead the way, for a group that includes Jakob Chychrun, Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers. This group could be fairly impressive this season and a good one to pick from, if you can sneak them on late.
The goaltending tandem of Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper still leaves a lot to be desired for me. The belief is that Raanta can emerge as a number one guy and if he does stumble, Kuemper can be an adequate number two to fill in the gaps. Both reputations come across as two career number two guys and there hasn't been much in either game to suggest that they can lift themselves or their team up to a winning level. They'll win some games, but how many will they steal?
Team to Pick From Late?
There are certainly some guys on this team, which could have been considered sleeper picks on more established teams, like a Michael Grabner, Richard Panik or Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the Coyotes are still trying to find their identity in the league and in an exceptionally difficult division. These guys could be the players that you might be looking for to sneak out some extra points, but they might be better left to the Waiver Draft, if you're going to pick them.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The strongest indicator about where the Coyotes are, in terms of a franchise, is that they are still taking on contracts to acquire future assets in the building process. They just don't have the feel of a team that is ready to make that leap yet. With a couple of injury deals on the books, I have them at a 25-man roster and they still are over $9.9 million away from the cap ceiling. If they can start winning now, that would be quite the feat.
One way to avoid the sophomore slump is to be injured through most of that season and that was how Jakob Chychrun got through his second year, undergoing major knee surgery before the end of the year. Chychrun has some real upside to his game and his projected number is very positive, so we're keeping a close eye on his return to the ice, which should have already happened in the summer, as he makes his way to 100% health.