Another season in the bottom-half of the standings led to another quality NHL Entry Draft for Arizona Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney and his staff. The team also made a pair of high-profile trades at the 2015 trade deadline, adding depth to a club that already boasted one of the best prospect pools in the league.
The preseason Top 20 sees seven new faces join the ranks. With the graduations of a few names, as well as the regression of some others, the Coyotes prospect pool is looking better than ever. Unlike the past two years, the Coyotes are prepared to tap into some of that depth and start to call on some of these players – implementing a new, speed-based system that will be a refreshing restart for the Coyotes faithful.
20. (15) Philip Samuelsson, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade, December 2014
It was a relatively minor trade that didn’t make a whole lot of news, but the Coyotes’ acquisition of Philip Samuelsson provided the team with valuable insurance and depth on the blueline. He won’t set any scoring records, but Samuelsson brings a physical and intimidating presence: good traits to have in the Western Conference.
Phillip joins his younger brother Henrik in the organization, and should begin the season with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. He is unlikely to make the Coyotes out of camp, but could provide valuable depth should the team fall into an injury crunch or need help after the trade deadline.
19. (13) Louis Domingue, G, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2010
Louis Domingue played for all three levels within the Arizona Coyotes organization, culminating with his NHL debut and first win. Domingue performed admirably, providing the team with a consistent approach to the position. Overall, Domingue appeared to earn at least a chance in training camp at a full-time NHL job, but he did not accept his qualifying offer, clouding his future with the team.
Domingue has stated that he has a contract with a European team, but official details have yet to surface. The Coyotes chose to let Mark Visentin go – a puzzling move to say the least – and now with Domingue rumored to be out of the fold, at least for this season, Adin Hill is the next in line with a lot to prove in order to make this list.
18. (17) Michael Bunting, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2014
Looking at the roster of the 2014-15 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Michael Bunting’s name doesn’t immediately stick out. However, a quick glance at the scoresheet shows that Bunting finished fourth on the team in scoring with 74 points in just 54 games, ahead of prized prospects like Nick Ritchie (ANA), Justin Bailey (BUF), and Boston Bruins surprise first round pick Zach Senyshyn. Bunting is an underrated prospect, bringing a nice blend of speed, vision, and puck control.
Bunting is slated to begin the season with the Springfield Falcons in the AHL, where he figures to play a bottom-six role, at least to start. He does have the ability to play further up the lineup, so it will be interesting to see how the team deploys him and how fast he adjusts to professional hockey.
17. (NR) Klas Dahlbeck, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade, March 2015
Klas Dahlbeck earned plenty of frequent flyer miles last year, spending the season split between two organizations and four teams overall. Dahlbeck had quietly been one of the most consistent defenseman for the Rockford IceHogs, the Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate. Unfortunately for him, the Blackhawks blueline depth was well noted and Dahlbeck couldn’t find a spot full-time. Dahlbeck was traded along with a first round pick (used to select Nick Merkley) in the Antoine Vermette trade, and found a roster spot in the NHL with the struggling Coyotes.
Dahlbeck is a capable defensive defenseman that is extremely limited in the offensive zone. However, his steady play provides his partner with a calming influence, and that in turn settles things down. He should be a regular in the Coyotes lineup this fall.
16. (NR) Conor Garland, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 123rd overall, 2015
It’s hard to fathom that the player that tied for the lead in CHL scoring last year lasted until the 5th round of the draft – that is until you take a look a little further. For one, this was his second time through the draft process, as he is at least one year older than most other players selected. Second, Garland is just 5’8, 160 pounds, not exactly ideal dimensions for the rough-and-tumble Western Conference. Despite having detractors, Garland does have an immense amount of offensive talent that can’t be ignored.
Garland will head back to the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL for the 2015-16 season. With the year he just had, Garland will have an opportunity to make the United States World Junior team, which would be a huge boost for his confidence and development. He is certainly a long term project, but it’s hard to argue with the acquisition cost and overall package the Coyotes are hoping to get out of him.
15. (NR) Kyle Capobianco, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2015
One of the lone standouts on a weak team in Sudbury, Kyle Capobianco was a bright spot during a tough season. Sudbury won just 12 games, with Capobianco playing a big part in keeping the team afloat. Despite not having much talent around him, the young defender managed 10 goals and 30 assists, solid totals for a player that does play a capable two-way game.
He will return to the Wolves for another season in the OHL, but with help on the way, it will be interesting to see if Capobianco can take another step forward. The underlying stats paint a different picture than the eye test, but nevertheless he’s worthy of keeping an eye on as the season kicks off.
14. (6) Lucas Lessio, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2011
Somewhat of a chameleon in the sense that he can change his game depending on the role he is being asked to play, Lucas Lessio is entering a critical season. Entering the final season of his entry-level contract, Lessio has yet to earn a full-time job in the NHL, but figures to have a chance at doing that this year. He has been a capable scorer at the AHL level thanks to his quick, effective shot release and ability to seek out opponents after controlling play in the offensive zone.
Whether it’s through necessity or chance, Lessio is going to get a chance in camp to earn a top-six role. It remains to be seen if he can be productive enough to maintain that spot. If not, he has a proven track record of being able to hit and do the little things as a penalty killer and cerebral forward – traits that should keep him in the NHL.
13. (16) Dysin Mayo, D, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2014
The Edmonton Oil Kings have recently made a few deep runs in the WHL playoffs. With Dysin Mayo returning for what presumably will be his final season in junior hockey, one final chance at glory is at hand. Mayo is one of the WHL’s finest skaters, one who makes transitioning look effortless. Known as a defender with above-average hockey sense, Mayo took a step forward offensively, finishing with 14 goals and 37 assists last season.
Back in Edmonton for one more kick at the can, Mayo is going to be a leader for them. Beyond that, he will have a chance to lead the WHL in scoring by a defenseman, something that would be a nice feather in the cap before heading off to the professional ranks.
12. (NR) Christian Fischer, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2015
The US National Team Development Program is known for producing quality, two-way forwards and perhaps the best in that role last year was Christian Fischer. Known as a consistent, calculated forward that rarely gets himself into trouble or the wrong position, Fischer’s increased offensive production was one of the reasons the Coyotes scooped him up early in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He won’t do anything flashy, but he doesn’t need to because he is always in control of the game and his awareness is off the charts for a player his age.
After graduating out of the United States Development program, Fischer was heading to the University of Notre Dame in the fall. That changed when he signed an entry-level deal with the Coyotes in mid-August. He will have the chance to demonstrate pro-readiness at camp, but might end up playing a year with the Windsor Spitfires, who own his CHL rights.
11. (NR) Maxim Letunov, C, 7.5D
Acquired via trade, March 2015
The Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL enjoyed one of their most successful regular seasons thanks to the dynamic duo of Kyle Connor (WPG) and Maxim Letunov. The young Russian finished with 25 goals and 39 assists in 58 contests, and his highlight-reel creativity and shot release made him a dangerous player to contend with. One element that sometimes gets overstated with gifted offensive players is that they don’t handle defensive responsibilities well. Letunov not only met team expectations defensively, but showed a gritty side and even was trusted as a penalty killer midway through the year.
Letunov was acquired by Arizona in the Zbynek Michalek trade, and with a number of high-end forwards in the system, the Coyotes can afford to be patient with him. Letunov is heading to the University of Connecticut for the 2015-16 season, where he figures to be a big part of their offense right off the bat.