10. (5) Henrik Samuelsson, LW/RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2012
Another player who has slipped in the rankings, Samuelsson missed the latter half of this season with an ankle injury. Never good news for a hockey player, Samuelsson will have to put a lot of work in over the summer to be ready for camp. His game is more likely than some others to fit in with the Coyotes’ future plans. He brings good size and checking ability, and he has been an effective pro in his brief career. A 40-point AHL rookie season made some think he could have played a role on the Coyotes this season. The injury sets him back some, but he should be ready to contend for that roster spot next fall.
9. (16) Conor Garland, RW, 7.5D
Drafted 5th Round, 123rd overall, 2015
A point-per-game scorer as a QMJHL rookie, the league’s scoring champion by a margin of 27 points in his second season, and leading the league again by 16 points this season, Garland is one of the CHL’s most impressive talents. True, he is small in stature, but he plays almost a one-man show, with the Moncton Wildcats’ second-leading scorer having about half his points. Everyone knows it will be a different story at the next level, but there is a chance that Garland can still develop more of the leg strength and balance he will need to complement his superb vision and puck skills. This makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in hockey.
8. (19) Louis Domingue, G, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2010
Domingue was nearly lost to the Coyotes in the offseason, but luckily for them and (probably even more so) him, he stuck around North America. Injuries to Mike Smith and Anders Lindback opened the door for Domingue to take over the starter’s role. He was great to begin with, but showed some wear and tear and lost a little confidence as the Coyotes began to struggle. Still his .912 save percentage is easily best among the team’s array of goalies this season. Another restricted free agent, Domingue may not be the future of the franchise, but showed capable of winning some games for the team at the NHL level.
7. (11) Max Letunov, C, 7.5C
Acquired via trade, March 2015
The University of Connecticut has made strides in just its second season as part of Hockey East, and adding Letunov to its roster helped the team be more competitive at once. Originally slated to join Boston University, Letunov came in as a freshman and jumped to the team scoring lead. The 20-year-old, who was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues (52nd overall) in 2014, comes in a long and wiry frame but has top-notch technical skills. He needs more strength, but a point-per-game pace in college hockey as a freshman is an impressive feat.
6. (10) Ryan MacInnis, C/LW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2014
Perhaps another leap in production from MacInnis was not unexpected, but he has been a solid player in every regard for the Kitchener Rangers this season. Their captain and leading scorer brings an excellent two-way game that can either drive play or shut down top players and it earned him a spot on bronze-medalists Team USA at the World Juniors. MacInnis has a good understanding of the game, but adding strength will go a long way to determining how his skills translate to the pro level, and how he can further separate from a talented pack.
5. (8) Nick Merkley, C/RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2015
Merkley’s season did not go as well as hoped, from being a somewhat surprising cut from Team Canada’s mediocre World Junior squad to his season ending early with a knee injury. He was still a top-five scorer for the Kelowna Rockets despite playing just 43 games, but the injury will cost him some important games. It would not be too surprising to see him back in junior in 2016-17, all things considered. It should not be seen to diminish his potential, which remains high.
4. (12) Christian Fischer, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2015
The decision to play major junior rather than college hockey has turned out to be a good one for Fischer. The OHL rookie piled up points on a decent Windsor Spitfires squad, and sits at a team-leading 85 points with the playoffs looming. Able to use his size effectively, Fischer is both a distributor of the puck in a creative way and a 36-goal scorer. He does not need a lot of time with the puck to make things happen, and should be able to be an effective pro next season.
3. (9) Laurent Dauphin, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, 2013
Although Dauphin appeared overwhelmed at times in the pros this season, it was a decent rookie campaign that included a nice first NHL goal. There is little to separate the top ten in fact, except for the pro experience Dauphin accrued this season. Despite the low scoring total with the Falcons, Dauphin actually has more shots on goal than the team’s leading scorer does. The ability to possess the puck and generate chances was surely one of the major reasons for his NHL callup. Like almost any rookie, Dauphin has his areas of weakness – he is not a big player – but he looks to have an early inside track on a bigger role next season.
2. (7) Christian Dvorak, C, 8.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 58th overall, 2014
If not for injury, Dvorak may have gone in the first round of 2014’s exceptional-looking draft. Two consecutive 100-plus point seasons later, it seems like Arizona’s gamble might pay off in a big way. The usual disclaimers about playing on a loaded team – his London Knights will score more than 300 goals this season – and in a second post-draft season all apply. Dvorak nonetheless has proven to be one of the most consistent scorers in the OHL. He put up better than a point-per-game for Team USA at the World Juniors as well, showing the shooting ability and positional awareness that allow him to be productive. It will be a great rookie crop for Springfield, and Dvorak has to prove himself again, but the chances of success seem strong here.
1. (1) Dylan Strome, C, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 3rd overall, 2015
Strome won’t win the CHL scoring title again this season, due in part to time spent at the World Juniors, but pushing 100 points for a second season should help confirm that he is a special talent who can thrive without Connor McDavid on his team. The question at this point is whether he can thrive in the NHL on a team that needs some more pieces to field a competitive roster next season. Domi and Duclair set a high bar this season for rookies, and Strome may have even less help. Nonetheless, he has the size, creativity, and talent to push for a major role in the Coyotes’ resurgence.