Arizona has the deepest group of under-23 forwards in the league

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The Arizona Coyotes have been patiently rebuilding since their surprise run to the Conference Finals in 2012. They missed out on Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid in 2015 when they were the second worst team in the league, and might have made an error when they took Dylan Strome over Mitch Marner in that same draft. I’m open to being corrected on that as time goes on – but Marner had a serious impact in the NHL at 19 years of age.

The youngest general manager in the league though, John Chayka, has done a magnificent job acquiring long-term potential. Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse, and Dylan Strome  represent a sextuplet of forwards who should become at worst contributing members of the top-9. Combined with Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chyrchrun on the backend, the gamble on Antti Raanta, and this team is building a superb core of talent.

Thus begs the question: when will they become capable of lugging this franchise out of the mud?

Offensive Rating + Formula

Each player will have two ratings: a Current and Potential rating.

Clayton Keller, for example, is a 3+, F+?. This means currently he is an offensively oriented top-9 forward, but has the potential to be an elite franchise player. The question mark means he may drop a rating or two, but we like to acknowledge players’ ceilings.

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Click here for more about Current and Potential Ratings.

Domi 1, F – Stepan 1, 1 – Rieder 3+, 2

Keller 2, F+? – Dvorak 2, F? – Perlini 3+, 2!

– Strome 3+, F – Duclair 3, 2?

Crouse 4, 1?? – Richardson 4, 4 – Cousins 4, 4

Martinook 3+, 3+ – Etem 4, 4

Anthony Duclair and Lawson Crouse represent players with potential, but I, and many ‘Yotes fans will still need convincing. Duclair took a step back, but Crouse is 6’4″, and likely needs a few years to learn to play hockey when he’s not completely dominant phsyically.

Luckily for them, Domi, Keller, Dvorak, Perlini, and Strome all rank higher, so there shouldn’t be much pressure.

Still, what to think of those two? Crouse was the 11th overall pick in 2015 – a draft that looks exceptional. Duclair scored 20 goals as a rookie before undergoing immense struggles last year. What will they bring to the table in 2018 and beyond?

Max Domi levelled out last year, but I’m expecting a strong third season from the winger. Not only does he have a deeper team to play with, but the third year is generally when players take the biggest jump professionally. He skates like he was shot out of a catapult.

Forward Ranking: Weak (31st of 31)

Defense Rating + Formula

EkmanLarsson F+, F+ – Hjalmarsson 1, 1

Goligoski 2, 2 – Schenn 3v, 3v

Connauton 3, 3 – Clendening 3, 3

Demers 2, 2

Chychrun 3+, F (injured for most of year)

The ‘Yotes have been aggressive over the last two offseasons on the back end, adding Hjalmarsson this past off season and Goligoski the season prior. With an established star such as Ekman-Larsson and a talented up-and-comer in Jakob Chychrun, the Coyotes have a solid core that should take a big jump as Chychrun realizes his vast potential.

Hjalmarsson and Goligoski were smart, well timed additions by my estimation. None of them are stars. But Hjalmy is signed until 2019, and Goligoski goes until 2021. Considering those two, as well as OEL and Chychrun as top-4 staples over the next 720 days is a fantastic proposition for the Coyoties. Their forwards will explode soon, and they’ll need the defense to back ’em up.

Defense Rating: Strong (10th of 31)

Goaltending Rating + Formula

Raanta 1, F – Domingue 2, 1

Arizona enters the 2017 season with two relatively unproven goaltenders.

Raanta, at 28 years old, is entering his prime as a keeper. His career high for games played is 28, and has played in a complementary role with excellent teams such as the New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks. Over his last three years his save percentage is .924 – will those numbers hold with an inexperienced team?

Domingue, similarly, is quite inexperienced. Though he’s started at least 30 games in each of the previous two seasons, he has never played without Mike Smith in front of him (save for injuries, of course).

Playing for a significantly weaker team than Raanta, Domingue has a .910 save percentage over the previous two seasons.

Ultimately, both goalies have something to prove, and the skills to do it.

Goaltender Rating: Weak (26th of 31)

Intrigue

There’s tons of intrigue in the desert for the upcoming season. First, they brought in some veteran talent in Derek Stepan to ease the pressure of their young centermen. Adding Antti Raanta simultaneously gives the ‘Yotes a boost at goalie and center, which are obviously some of the most important positions in hockey.

Then there is their vast expanse of young talent.

Clayton Keller did not look out of place at all during his 3-game trial with the Coyotes last season – and his skill level is ridiculously high.

Christian Dvorak had a fine start to his professional hockey career with 15 goals and 33 points as a 20 year old. This, of course is his follow up to a stupendous junior career where he scored 230 points in 125 games over his final two years.

Max Domi’s numbers didn’t jump at all, but scored at the exact pace he did as a rookie two years ago. Still just 22 years old, there is lots of room for Domi to continue improving.

Brendan Perlini scored 14 goals in 17 AHL games last year, and then scored at a 20-goal pace over 57 NHL games (14 goals). I’ll comfortably assume there is more waiting over the next few years, and a consistent mid-20s goal scorer might be in the cards for Perlini.

Dylan Strome has averaged 1.32 assists per game over his last three OHL seasons, which suggests there is big-time playmaking ability and hockey sense waiting to be realized at the NHL level. It might be off-putting that he’s had to spend extra years in junior despite being sandwiched between Jack Eichel and Mitch Marner – two established NHL stars – but.. 6’3″ centermen with that type of junior resume deserve patience. If watching Mark Scheifele develop into the star he is now has taught me anything, it’s that extra years of complete domination in juniors is never a bad thing.

5 Most Valuable Assets

Oliver Ekman-Larsson F+, F+

Clayton Keller 3+, F+?

Dylan Strome 3+, F

Jakob Chychrun 3+, F

Max Domi 1, F

Top 3 Prospects

Clayton Keller 3+, F+?

Dylan Strome 3+, F

Brendan Perlini 3+, 2!

Prediction

Arizona is a tough team to read because they are so young. The average age of their projected top-12 forwards is a minuscule 24.2 years, which means every 20 games they play will result in significant development. You can expect leaky defense and a run-and-gun game that makes every coach queasy.

By game 60, however, Strome and Keller will have gotten important NHL experience, Perlini, Crouse, and Dvorak will be mostly through their second NHL season, and will have doubled their NHL game total. Every quarter of a season will matter for a team this young.

The squad should have solid offense this year, and will boast a preposterously deep offense for the 2018-19 season and beyond.

Their defense is now quietly above average, has an anchor in OEL and solid depth with Hjalmarsson and Goligoski, and the injured Chychrun behind them.

If Antti Raanta can run with the opportunity in goal, the Coyotes might be able to surprise a lot of people. This could be a team on the cusp of something big – but it might take longer than the 82 games this season.

Our model placed their offense at last in the league, but it’s purely due to a lack of proof at the NHL level. I expect that ranking to climb significantly over the coming year or two.

Offense: Weak (31st of 31)

Defense: Strong (10th of 31)

Goaltending: Weak (26th of 31)

Verdict: 6th in the Pacific Division

Playoffs: Either 2019 or 2020. Arizona’s deficiencies are a lack of experience – not talent. But the potential is there for their offense and goaltending to completely outperform these projections.

You can find the rest of our Franchise Previews here.

*This depth chart has been updated to relfect the September 17 trade between the Panthers and Coyotes. Jamie McGinn for Jason Demers

Written by hockeythoughts.ca