Going into the 2016 draft weekend I was still not quite sure on new Coyotes GM John Chayka. On one hand trading for the rights and then signing Alex Goligoski was a quality move. On the other hand, trading prospect Maxim Letunov, who had an awesome freshman season at UCONN, seemed like an odd move at best. But I have to admit Chayka had a strong 2016 NHL draft weekend. Pretty much every mock draft that I read going into the weekend had the Coyotes taking defenseman Olli Juolevi with the seventh overall pick. It made sense too because the Coyotes have a ton of excellent forward prospects on their way but don’t really have any defenseman prospects, their top three would be: Kyle Wood (who they acquired at this past season’s trade deadline), Kyle Capobianco and Dysin Mayo. If those names aren’t exactly jumping off the page at you just imagine it drops even more after them. So going into the draft defense was obviously a priority. Well as you already probably know Juolevi went to Vancouver at fifth. I would say that pretty much killed every mock draft, but seriously did anyone see Dubois going at three over Puljujarvi….seriously ANYONE? With Juolevi off the board, the conscious was that the Coyotes would take Mikhail Sergachev or Jakob Chychrun but Chayka, that sly fox, instead goes in a different route.
Clayton Keller, 7th overall
Keller absolutely tore it up for the US National Team Development Program last season. He led the U-18 squad with 107 points (37 goals and 70 assists) in 62 games. His career point total of 130 in 78 games is second-most all-time for the U-18 team, while Keller is the all-time assists leader with 84. In the World U-18 Championship, he posted four goals and finished with a team-high 14 points in seven games to be named tournament MVP. He’s a playmaker, combining skill and speed with an excellent hockey IQ. He won’t be in a Coyotes uniform in 2016-17 as the Yotes have no plans on rushing him to the NHL and would like to see him put on some weight and muscle first (168 pounds). Keller is committed to Boston University for the fall of 2016 but there have been some rumors he could play for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL who hold his junior rights and will host the 2017 Memorial Cup.
With the Coyotes holding another first round pick at 20th, Chayka made a smart decision, moving up to 16th overall after a trade with the Detroit Red Wings.
Jakob Chychrun, 16th overall
Now they grab that defenseman. Chayka admitted that he thought about taking Chychrun at 7th but decided to go with Keller. An excellent skater, he can handle the puck and get shots on net, racking up 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games last season for Sarnia of the OHL. At this time last summer, Chychrun was considered one of the top prospects for the 2016 draft, many scouts having him a close second behind Austin Matthews. But as the 2015-16 season wore on his ranking fell. Tim Bernhardt, the Coyotes director of amateur scouting felt the pressure of being a high draft pick might have affected him. “We think once the weight is lifted off his shoulders and he gets going next year, he’ll be fine,” Bernhardt said. “He has all the tools you could ask for.” Physically he’s ready for the NHL but once again it seems doubtful the Coyotes rush him especially since he struggled at times last season and they are stacked on the left side with OEL, now Goligoski and Michael Stone.
The Coyotes had two second round picks but ended up trading both of them. The 53rd overall pick was included in the package that netted them the 16th pick but the 37th overall pick was traded to Tampa Bay for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. The trade seems a win for the Coyotes since they add a very skilled right shooting offensive defenseman. Unfortunately, life isn’t easy and DeAngelo seems to have more red flags coming over with him than the Chinese Army. One question I thought shortly after the trade: Why would Steve Yzerman, who seems like a smart GM, give up on him after just one season in the Tampa Bay system? If the kid can get it together and work on improving play in his own zone this could be a huge pickup, if not well I applaud Chayka for taking a chance.
With three picks left the Coyotes used them all on defenseman.
Cam Dineen, 68th overall
I was surprised that Dineen lasted this long. He’s not huge (5-11, 185 lbs) but he makes up for it with smarts and excellent on-ice vision. In his first season in the OHL, Dineen racked up 59 points in 68 games-third highest on his team and second-most among league defenseman. He was named to the OHL All-Rookie First Team and was also second-among rookie scorers in the OHL. Dineen was a finalist for both the Rookie of the Year and Defenseman of the Year. His defense partner in North Bay last season was fellow Coyote prospect Kyle Wood.
Patrick Kudla, 158th overall
Kudla, who converted from forward to defense just two years ago, was named the OJHL Defenseman of the Year after leading all blueliners with 66 points (13 goals, 53 assists) in 50 games last season-the 14th best total by a defenseman in league history. Also his 53 assists led all players in the OJHL and was 10th best in league history. He models his game after Brent Burns another player who converted from forward to defense. This one is a long wait as Kudla will play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in 2016-17 then attend Arizona’s very own Division 1 program, Arizona State University the following year.
Dean Stewart, 188th overall
Played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League last season, putting up 22 points in 42 games with the Portage Terriers. Stewart helped his team win the MJHL championship, tallying 13 points in 13 playoff games. He also won a gold medal for Canada West U-19 in the World Junior A Challenge. Stewart seems like a long shot but he’s a big kid (6-2) who can skate well. He’ll play for the University of Nebrasks-Omaha next season. Shortly after learning he was drafted by the Coyotes Stewart tweeted this pic of him with Shane Doan when he was nine years old. Regarding the photo, Stewart and his family were vacationing in Phoenix area and decided to attend a Coyotes practice. After the practice, Stewart yelled out to Shane Doan as he was leaving the ice. Doan stopped and talked to the youngster, and Stewart mentioned that he was from Manitoba. Doan signed his jersey and gave him and his family a tour of the Coyotes dressing room.
The Coyotes Prospect Development Camp runs from July 4th to July 8th at the Gila River Arena. You can find the roster here. The main attraction will be the Yotes collection of stud prospects like Dylan Srome, Christian Dvorak and brand new toy Clayton Keller. They have their usual collection of invites but one that jumps out at me is Max French, who just completed a pretty dominate junior season at Bentley University. You can find a quick story on him here.
The Coyotes made some moves at the beginning of free agent frenzy. Other than Jamie McGinn, most of the other signings were depth moves. Justin Peters was signed as the team’s third goalie and could steal the number two spot from Louis Domingue but I don’t see that happening. So Strome and Dvorak are still are pretty much locks for opening night roster.
Also here is an updated top ten fantasy hockey Coyote prospects list. Feel free to leave a comment on what you think whether good, bad or maybe you just think I’m an idiot I don’t know. Thanks for reading!