For the first time in four seasons, the Phoenix Coyotes missed the playoffs. After having their most successful postseason in franchise history, the Coyotes struggled to string wins together until it was too late. With a slew of young defensemen looking to make the jump to the next level, the Coyotes are in a position where a good forward can fall right into their laps at the 12th pick.
Top 10 Prospects:
Scoring, scoring, and more scoring. It is no secret that the Coyotes lack a dynamic forward that can carry the offense. They have a bunch of streaky scorers who can dominate if they all get hot at the same time, but that does not seem to happen very often.
The Coyotes are especially thin down the middle and have lacked a true number one center for a number of years. Martin Hanzal is the ideal third line center while Antoine Vermette could serve as a good number two, but without that number one center, both Hanzal and Vermette are forced to be pushed up a line and look out of place most nights.
The Phoenix Coyotes have a great defense core. With Keith Yandle looking like he is not far off from challenging for the Norris Trophy as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson emerging as one of the best young defensemen in the game, the Coyotes do not have many holes on the blue line. Michael Stone is a player who stepped up after starting the season fighting for the seventh defenseman spot. By the end of the season, Stone was a vital piece of the back end.
There is no shortage of hard-working forwards in the Coyotes’ system. Most of the top forward prospects are playing at the AHL level and the majority of them have a common theme: work ethic. Jordan Szwarz is one player who stands out for the Portland Pirates due to work ethic alone. While the offense might not ever reach a level where he will be able to produce consistently at the NHL level, if he continues to develop he will make a great bottom line grinder for the Coyotes.
While there are many questions surrounding Mike Smith and the goaltending situation for the Phoenix Coyotes, all three of their young goalies who played their first season of professional hockey enjoyed some success. While Mark Visentin has the highest ceiling, both Louis Domingue and Mike Lee, especially the latter, held their own at the professional level.
Like the parent club, the Phoenix Coyotes’ prospect pipeline lacks high-skilled forwards that project as top line scorers. While a few of the prospects have been able to produce at the junior level, such as Henrik Samuelsson and Lucas Lessio, it remains to be seen if either will be able to provide offense on a consistent basis at the professional level.
Outside of the three young goalies playing professionally, the Coyotes only goalie prospect in junior is Marek Langhamer. Langhamer struggled for the Medicine Hat Tigers this season and eventually lost his starting job. While it is very difficult to predict the development of goaltenders, it would not be the worst idea for the Coyotes to take a flier on a goalie in the later rounds of the draft.
Under General Manager Don Maloney, the Phoenix Coyotes have not selected many NCAA players. In fact, the Coyotes have drafted a CHL player with four of their last six first round picks if you count Connor Murphy, who was committed to Miami but wound up in the OHL with Sarnia. The team has historically not had great luck using their first round picks on college-bound players, with prospects like Blake Wheeler (2004) and Kyle Turris (2007) not panning out in Phoenix.
Since Maloney took over in 2007, he has selected a goalie in all but two drafts. With only one goaltending prospect playing junior hockey currently, it would not come as a shock if Maloney selected a goalie in the late rounds of this year’s entry draft. Because predicting the development of goalies is an almost impossible feat, adding another one to their decent cupboard of goaltending prospects is a move Maloney has already shown he is comfortable with.
Hockey’s Future Mock Draft Results:
Max Domi, C/LW, London Knights (OHL)
It is no secret that the Phoenix Coyotes have lacked a forward who can be a game-changer on offense for a long time. By selecting Max Domi, the Coyotes get a prospect who has the potential to be an offensive force for years to come in the NHL. Though Domi is considered to be on the short side at 5'10, he has a solid build and does not get knocked off the puck easily. He possesses great vision along with the "pit bull" mentality that his father, Tie, was known for. It would not come as a shock if Domi is moved to the wing in the NHL, and even though the Coyotes are thin up the middle, they cannot pass on a potential star like Domi in order to draft for positional needs.
Follow Mitchell Brandner on Twitter: @mbrandner27