It feels like the Arizona Coyotes have been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent years. Relocation worries, arena concerns, wrangling around leases, and city council disputes have tended to overshadow the good work done by General Manager Don Maloney and his organization in building the best prospect group in the league. This season, led once again by one of the NHL’s best coaches in Dave Tippett, the Coyotes have been better than expected as they develop toward a contending squad. Part of that success is owed to the development of its rookie prospects.
Beside the play of top-line defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, it has been a relatively forgettable year for the Arizona Coyotes. The team is firmly out of a playoff position and well off-pace to match last season’s total of 89 points, which landed them ninth in the Western Conference. Arizona’s AHL team, the Portland Pirates, is middle-of-the-pack but holding on to a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
A year removed from finishing last in the AHL with just 61 points, the Portland Pirates, primary affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes, have shown respectable improvements this season. Through 35 games, the Pirates are 19-15-1, scoring 87 goals and allowing 82, having won their last four games.
The Arizona Coyotes have actively addressed the composition of their prospect pool since the 2013-14 trade deadline. A year ago, there was a logjam of talented defensemen throughout their pipeline. At the deadline, general manager Dave Maloney traded David Rundblad to the Chicago Blackhawks. At the 2014 NHL Draft, the Coyotes grabbed seven forwards while only selecting two defensemen, both in the late rounds.
A revamped Coyotes prospect pool suddenly boasts a plethora of two-way forwards who can generate offense off the forecheck. Until this offseason, the Arizona Coyotes prospect pool has been overstocked by promising young defensemen threatening to die on the vine. However, since the 2013-14 trade deadline, general manager Don Maloney has methodically balanced the prospect pool.