The Phoenix Coyotes made six selections at the 2013 NHL Draft, primarily improving the center depth in the pipeline while still adding depth to the strengths in goal and on defense. The Coyotes draft class does not feature a lot of size, but each of the players makes up for it by competing hard and being willing to throw their weight around anyway.
All six picks came from major junior or junior 'A' leagues in the U.S. and Canada, marking the first time since the organization moved to Phoenix that the Coyotes have not selected a player from outside of North America.
The Coyotes have made a habit out of selecting players with NHL bloodlines with their previous three first round draft picks. The team selected Max Domi with the 12th overall selection and added him to a pipeline that already included Henrik Samuelsson and Connor Murphy. The son of notorious NHL enforcer Tie Domi, Max is instead a skilled winger that is exactly the type of dynamic offensive prospect that the Phoenix system was missing.
After winning gold with Team Canada at the 2012 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Domi led the London Knights in both goals (39) and points (87) during his 64 games in 2012-13. He is a dangerous playmaker with quick hands, great vision, and the ability to process the play swiftly in the offensive end, and those skills especially came through on the powerplay last season. His 14 goals on the man advantage ranked second for London, which was one of only three OHL teams to finish the season over 25-percent on the powerplay.
Never the tallest player on the ice, Domi is still strong around the net and difficult to separate from the puck. His explosiveness and confidence combine for plenty of highlight reel plays, even if he can be guilty of trying to do too much by himself at times. That may not be surprising considering how hard he competes, whether or not the puck is on his stick.
For a team in need of more offense, the Coyotes probably could not have done much better than Max Domi with their first round pick. He immediately becomes the organization’s best offensive prospect, and already having signed his entry-level contract, Domi could be with the Coyotes as soon as next season. Considering the attention that Phoenix expects in the defensive zone, another year in junior and a shot at Team Canada for the WJC might still be in store.
Hockey's Future shot video of Domi at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view his extended remarks in this HF video.
After taking an offensive dynamo in the first round, the Coyotes added a more well-rounded center prospect in the second round with Laurent Dauphin. The Repentigny, Quebec native was a force as a QMJHL rookie for Chicoutimi in 2012-13, ranking fourth on the team in both goals (25) and points (57) in 62 games. Those totals were among the best in the league by a rookie, as he ranked second in goals and fifth in points among first-year skaters.
A strong rookie campaign in the QMJHL was only part of Dauphin's resume last season. The center also made his presence felt in the CHL Top Prospects Game as well as on Canada's gold medal-winning U18 World Junior Championships team. His proclivity for standout performances in big games was a key reason his stock rose in the second half of his draft year.
Dauphin moves around the ice with ease and possesses excellent hockey IQ, making him a versatile forward that can help a team in any role. He works harder than everyone else on the ice and has the skills and vision to create chances in the offensive zone.
He will have an opportunity to build on his productive debut with Chicoutimi next season. Adding strength as he continues to develop at the junior level will be important before Dauphin's transition to the pro level. He has the potential to develop into a top-six center for the Coyotes, but could just as easily settle into a role as a versatile, high-energy role player by the time he reaches the NHL.
Yan-Pavel Laplante, C, PEI Rocket (QMJHL)
3rd round, 62nd overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 170
Like Dauphin, Yan-Pavel Laplante is not necessarily an intimidating presence on paper, but on the ice, the PEI forward is a force to be reckoned with. Even after he suffered a severe shoulder injury in the Ivan Hlinka and was out of the lineup for the better part of six months, Laplante returned with his same aggressive style of play.
Laplante had a successful return from injury late in the QMJHL season, scoring five goals and 13 points 18 games to finish the regular season. He then went on to lead the Rocket in goals (3) and points (5) during their six-game playoff series against Quebec. His seamless return to action helped raise his draft stock, as did a gold medal for Canada’s U18 WJC and a top-five finish in the Wingate, which measures a player’s explosiveness, at the NHL Combine.
Although he does not yet have a lot of strength packed onto his 6'0 frame, Laplante is a player that gives his maximum effort on every shift. He knows where to go to score goals and relishes the battle around the net.
Getting stronger will be important for Laplante, whose style of play does not portend a very long career at his current size. Laplante will continue to be depended upon in all situations for the Rocket and have plenty of opportunity to continue rounding out his game.
The Coyotes boast a deep group of defensive prospects already and the team chose to wait until the fifth round to bolster that depth in 2013. Connor Clifton was not among the big name draft prospects playing for the United State National Team Development Program, but he proved to be a productive and aggressive player on the blue line for the squad, accumulating nine points and 90 penalty minutes in 25 USHL games with the U18 team.
Clifton is undersized for a defenseman at 5'11, but like the rest of the Phoenix draft class, that does not keep him from playing with an edge and being willing to throw his weight around. Decision-making is however an area in need of improvement, as he has developed a reputation as a bit of a gambler when the puck is on his stick.
Committed to Quinnipiac University for the 2013-14 season, Clifton will be able to use the experience against college competition with the USNTDP to his advantage as he transitions full-time to the ECAC. The blueliner has a ways to go before he will be considered for the pro level, but he has a versatile skill set and can develop at his own pace behind the Coyotes' organizational blue line depth.
The lone goaltender selected by the Coyotes in 2013 has deep ties to the organization. He is the son of Sean Burke, Coyotes Goaltending Coach and Assistant General Manager, and played his midget hockey in the area for PF Changs and the Junior Coyotes before moving north to the WHL. Burke, in fact, has already gotten a taste of practice with the Coyotes, having filled in for a day as a 15-year-old during the 2010-11 season when Ilya Bryzgalov was in need of a day off. At 6'3, Burke has the size that many teams are looking for in goalies, not to mention the size that the Coyotes and their staff have been able to develop and find success with in recent years.
In 33 appearances during the regular season, Burke finished the year with a .908 save percentage and 2.65 goals against average. He earned a record of 24-5-1, including four shutouts, playing behind another talented Winterhawks squad, but Burke saw less than 10 minutes of action during Portland's run to the Memorial Cup. Although the Winterhawks goaltending duo came close to splitting starts last season, Burke has been stuck behind incumbent starter Mac Carruth (CHI) each of the last two seasons.
The easy explanation of this pick is the familiarity that the organization has in Burke, but he has also been a highly-regarded teammate and goaltender wherever he has played. Having bided his time behind Carruth in Portland, the 2013-14 season will finally be Burke's chance to assume the starter's role for the Winterhawks.
Jedd Soleway, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
7th round, 193rd overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 208
The Coyotes final selection was another center, Jedd Soleway, who finished the 2012-13 season with Penticton in the BCHL after a trade from the Vernon Vipers. After 17 points in his first 26 games with Vernon, Soleway exploded for 14 goals and 29 points in 22 games for Penticton.
Soleway was the biggest skater taken in the draft by the Coyotes, measuring 6'2 and 208 pounds. He uses that size well along the boards and around the net, as well as at the faceoff dot. He proved with Penticton that he could provide a valuable service to a team's top line, having both the tenacity to do the dirty work in front of the net and the skill in close to capitalize on his chances.
Skating is still an area in need of improvement, but his hard work and aggressive play should help him settle in as a checking line player when he debuts at the University of Wisconsin next season. Whether he can work his way up the Badgers' depth chart and contribute offensively will go a long way in determining his professional future, but Soleway will have plenty of time to develop at a program that has produced more than its fair share of NHL players.