August 32-in-32: Arizona Coyotes

Keith Duggan

2022-08-02

The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in August we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s Draft, and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up in September, we will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the
upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all off-season long!

The NHL Draft on July 7-8th was a big deal for not only Arizona management but especially for their fans. They really do not have much to look forward to these days. Arizona has not been good for a while now and looking at their current roster, this will continue with a rebuild in full swing. If they do not finish with one of the worst records in 2022-23, it would be almost as shocking as Johnny Gaudreau’s signing in Columbus. They should be frontrunners for the 2023 Connor Bedard sweepstakes, a potential franchise player slated to go first overall. Unfortunately, Arizona has never done well in draft lotteries, always seeming to fall. Add in conspiracy theories swirling on social media with regards to the league already set on rebuilding Chicago, having them winning the 2023 Draft Lottery so that they can select the phenom. Because, well, it’s a bigger and more profitable market.

Big-name free agents and star players who end up changing teams such as Matthew Tkachuk never even glance for a second Arizona’s way. Despite the team having an abundance of cap space. 

One of their best young players in defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who not too long ago was considered an “untouchable”, has requested to be traded. From reports, he was close to being dealt at the draft but for now, is still a Coyote. 

Then there is the arena issue. I’m sure you have heard by now but just a quick reminder: After basically being kicked out of Gila River Arena, they will play at Arizona State University for the next three years, maybe a fourth, which only allows for 4,700 fans. Along with a home schedule that is less than desirable. 

 

In the agreement with ASU, it includes a ‘good behavior’ clause. This requires Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo to avoid notoriety, as he’s been in trouble before, or the team could be forced out of another arena.

So, yeah, the Draft was a big deal. Fans need something to look forward to and they will get it with a bounty of picks this year and upcoming drafts. While it’s easy to rip them, this is the most coherent plan we have seen from the franchise in years, if ever. Arizona went into the 2022 Draft with 10 picks, seven in the first two rounds. It was expected that they move around with those picks, which they did but still walked away with 10 selections in total. In 2023, Arizona has nine picks, including four third-rounders. In 2024, the Coyotes have 13 picks, including three second-rounders and three third-rounders. In 2025, they already have nine, including three second-rounders, and GM Bill Armstrong will no doubt look to add more by taking on other teams’ troublesome contracts as training camp approaches. 

The Draft

The Coyotes are well on the way with their rebuild. They bolstered their biggest weakness, the center position, by drafting two with the potential of being your future one-two punch.  Armstrong’s imprint was all over this draft with just one player being under 6 feet tall (Cooley). He’s made no secret in the fact he likes size. The teams he helped draft in St. Louis were big, punishing squads and that trait was evident in this draft. 

Round One, 3rd Overall – Logan Cooley, C

There was a lot of uncertainty leading up to the draft about what was going to happen at the top, but one unanimous theory was Logan Cooley being taken by Arizona. Even when Shane Wright fell, it never seemed to cross the Coyotes’ minds that they were selecting anyone else other than Cooley. “Wright’s a really good player in the sense that he can shoot a puck,” GM Armstrong had to say about the contrasting styles between the two players. “Where Cooley is more of a skater and pushing the pace and he plays a little bit faster. He’s more, for me, a puck mover. He makes people better around him.”

Labeled by many scouts as the most dynamic player in the draft, Cooley checked all the boxes of what Arizona needs. Most importantly, he is a number one center, something they have been lacking for decades now. Seriously decades. Check. He’s fun, exciting, and someone that will thrill the crowd. Check, check, check. About the only thing he lacks is size, listed at 5-foot-10, 180-pounds. Cooley plays hard though and goes into the dirty areas. He is not timid out there. 

Cooley has been one of NTDP’s best players the past two years, although his production does not blow you away. He had 75 points in 51 games last season. He was a top forward for the US at the U18 World Championships, both as a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old, the last two years. 

When he has the puck on his stick, you instantly notice him because of his high-end speed, skill, and offensive IQ. He can make highly creative dekes and passes at full speed. 

 

He’s committed to the University of Minnesota, and it would be shocking if he’s not a one-and-done season there. Expect to see him playing some NHL games with a Coyotes sweater on to finish out the campaign. 

Round One, 11th Overall – Conor Geekie, C

The Coyotes felt Geekie was a top-10 pick and when he was still available at 11, they quickly made a deal with San Jose. They sent a first-round pick (27) and two second-round picks (34 and 45), so that they could move up to the No. 11 pick.

“If you saw him on his good nights, you had him in the top five,” Armstrong had to say of Geekie. “He had some dominant performances with his size and ability and just his energy and how hard he works. For a big guy, there’s a little bit of inconsistency where he’s got to work on that. I think that’s a maturing process where he can be good like that every single night, but he has what we love. He’s got size and he plays physical, and he’s got the skill. For us, he’s got a chance to be a second-line center.” 

Geekie was a top player for a strong WHL Winnipeg Ice team, where he had 24 goals and 70 points in 63 games. Much like his older brother Morgan, who plays for Seattle, Geekie’s biggest knock is skating. The Coyotes feel as though that can be improved while his hockey IQ and size cannot. If he can add some strength and pick up a step in his skating, Geekie is definitely a potential second-line center.  

Along with having great flow, Geekie also seems like he has a good personality

Round One, 29th Overall – Maveric Lamoureux, LD

Armstrong has made it clear that he is ready to take on other teams’ problematic contracts if it means acquiring assets. He kept that up by agreeing to take on Zack Kassian and his two remaining years (3.2 million AAV) from Edmonton for the No. 29 pick, a second-round pick in 2025, and a third-round pick in 2024 in exchange for the No. 32 pick. 

The Coyotes used the pick to grab mammoth defenseman Maveric Lamoureux from Drummondville of the QMJHL. Armstrong has said that Lamoureux reminds him of Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, whom he helped draft when he was part of the St. Louis scouting staff. “He’s a big guy,” Armstrong said. “He finished number one at the combine. He’s an exciting guy. He’s a project. It’s going to take some time. When you’re that big, it takes a while to kind of put all the pieces together and gets going and Parayko was the same way when we drafted him.”

A right-shot, physical defenseman, Lamoureux is also a good skater for his size. The offense is the question in his game. He shows flashes of good hands and vision as a puck-mover and an occasional hard point shot, but that aspect of his game is inconsistent. When Lamoureux fills out he could be a force in his own end. 

Round Two, 36th Overall – Artem Duda, LD

With their first selection in the second round, the Coyotes selected defenseman Artem Duda from the CSKA 2 program in the Russian Jr. circuit. He played for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL appearing in 52 games, recording 14-27-41. Duda added five goals and 17 points in 18 playoff contents. An ace on the power play, Duda impressively went all last season without taking a penalty. He also saw four games in the VHL as well posting one goal and six points over seven games for CSKA’s U18 team. Duda had decent size (6-1, 187 lbs.) with good offensive instincts, Arizona is content to let him develop in Russia for the next couple of years. 

Round Two, 43rd Overall – Julian Lutz, LW

The Coyotes rounded out the second round by selecting the German winger, Lutz. He missed most of last season after suffering a fatigue fracture of his lumbar spine. He got in a few DEL games for EHC Munchen, tallying one goal and three points in 14 games. Lutz also suited up for Germany at the U18s, where his four points in as many games led the team in scoring. At 6-foot-2, Lutz is a good skater with strong puck skills. He could be a sleeper after slipping in the draft due to missing most of 2021-22 with injury. 

Round Three, 67th Overall – Miko Matikka, RW

Matikka posted 19 goals and 33 points in 30 games for Jokerit’s under-20 club. He had a tough first half due to an injury suffered at the start of the season. Then got off to a slow start when he returned, but once Matikka got going, had a very strong second half of 2021-22. Another big winger (6-foot-3), he can dangle and has shown flashes of playmaking. Matikka plans to come to North America this year where he is committed to the University of Denver. 

Round Three, 94th Overall – Jeremy Langlois, LD

Arizona traded a 2023 third-round pick to Chicago for this year’s 94th overall selection. They used it to grab Langlois, who played this past year for Cape Breton of the QMJHL. He had 13 goals and 47 points in 58 games for the Screaming Eagles, a team that finished last place. Langlois played significant minutes in all situations while serving as an assistant captain. A smart, two-way defenseman, for Arizona to trade a pick to select him he must have impressed their Quebec League scouts. 

Round Five, 131st Overall – Matthew Morden, LD

Morden played last year for St. Andrews College in the Canadian High School Hockey League, putting up eight goals and 35 points in 41 games. He appeared in two games for Muskegon in the USHL, where he will play this upcoming campaign before heading to Harvard University for 2023-24. Morden also played three games for Canada at the U18 World Championship. Being the fifth round, this was a project selection, as Morden is a big defender (6-foot-4, 203-pounds) who has good offensive instincts. It’s hard to get a read on him up against lesser competition after playing in the CAHS, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses in the USHL then Harvard. 

Round Six, 163rd Overall – Maksymilian Szuber, LD

Another big defenseman (6-foot-3), he might also have one of the best first names in this draft. Playing for the same team as second-rounder Julian Lutz in EHC Munchen, he had one goal and seven points in 35 games. Born in Poland, Szuber is a dual citizen who represents Germany in international competitions. He’s been named to their World Junior Championship squad in both 2021 and 2022. 

Round Seven, 204th Overall – Adam Zlnka, W

The Coyotes traded their 2023 seventh-round pick to San Jose for this year’s 204th selection, grabbing Slovakian forward Zlnka. He played for Sioux Falls in the USHL last year, recording one goal and four points in 10 games, where his season was hampered by a serious knee injury. Zlnka came into 2021-22 with some hype but slide off the radars of most scouts after missing a large part of the campaign. He was part of the Slovakian team that won a silver medal at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Zlnka plans on playing in the USHL again this coming year and then going the NCAA route. 

Fantasy-wise, Cooley is a player you should be targeting at the top of dynasty leagues drafts. He will be a top-line player in the NHL. Geekie should be a first-round pick too, but his upside is not near Cooley. Lamoureux will play in the NHL but I’m not sure he will be fantasy worthy. Their other picks have potential but are more worth late-round selections at this point with Lutz the biggest possible sleeper.

The Off-Season

With Arizona in rebuild mode, there was no reason to spend a lot of money on a team that will not even come close to competing for a playoff spot. They probably add a few more veterans as other teams try to clear cap space, but as expected, the Coyotes will be close to the cap floor again. 

The Coyotes have a lot of journeymen-type players on the roster. This is good for their top prospects, as NHL teams are much more inclined to displace a journeyman than veterans who have been a part of an organization for a while. So, there will be opportunities for prospects to grab roster spots. The big question, though, is it going to be good for their development or risk overwhelming them and stunting their growth? Especially as it’s expected to be in a losing environment this year.  

People have argued with me that Dylan Guenther will make the team this year and while his talent is undeniable, I don’t think we see him full-time, yet. Perhaps he gets a nine-game trial to begin 2022-23 but Arizona has no plans to rush him. Throw in the lower body injury he’s been dealing with from the WHL playoff and that adds a cloud of uncertainty. Armstrong has talked about how he would like to see Guenther add some muscle, too. The best bets are Jack McBain and Nathan Smith. Both looked good in late-season auditions last year and now come in with some experience under their belts. Is this the year Victor Söderström earns a full-time spot with the club? I think he splits the year between Tucson and Arizona again. He struggled for periods last year, so a little more development time in the AHL will not hurt. The same can be said about Matias Maccelli and Jan Jenik

I think 2023-24 is the year that we see an influx of the team’s top prospects make Arizona. Whoever they select at, or near the top, of a strong 2023 draft (hopefully Bedard), Cooley, Guenther, Soderstrom, Maccelli, and others make their full-time mark with the Coyotes. 

A couple of under-the-radar signings who might crack a roster spot could be two 27-year-old Czech defensemen in Ronald Knot and Lukas Klok, along with 23-year-old Slovak right winger Milos Kelemen. All three played in the 2022 Olympics and had decent, not great, offensive years last year. Arizona also signed Russian defenseman Grigori Dronov to a professional tryout. Dronov is a 6-foot-3, 24-year-old who’s played the past six years in the KHL. He should get a long look in training camp and Arizona is optimistic he could be the next Ilya Lyubushkin. None will be big point producers and will probably just provide depth but one or more could be a surprise much like Karel Vejmelka was last year. 

Incoming

Main Roster: Zack Kassian (trade), Nick Bjugstad (signing), Josh Brown (signing), Troy Stecher (signing), Patrick Nemeth (trade)

System: Jon Gillies (signing), Laurent Dauphin (signing), Jean-Sebastien Dea (signing), Lukas Klok (signing), Milos Kelemen (signing), Ronald Knot (signing)

Outgoing: Jay Beagle (UFA), Phil Kessel (UFA), Anton Stralman (UFA), Dmitrij Jaskin (UFA), Antoine Roussel (UFA), Loui Eriksson (UFA), Cole Hults (UFA), Alex Galchenyuk (UFA), Kyle Capobianco (UFA, signed with Winnipeg), Harri Sateri (UFA), Marek Langhamer (UFA), Ty Emberson (traded to New York Rangers)

DEVELOPMENT CAMP

The Coyotes held their development camp shortly after the draft. They had a good showing, including the 2022 class. Guenther did not participate in any on-ice activities due to his lower-body injury. Development camp is basically just orientation for rookies, but in on-ice sessions, Jack McBain seemed to be the biggest standout. Unfortunately, the biggest news to come out of it was an injury to Geekie.

Fortunately, the injury does not sound serious, and Arizona signed Geekie to his ELC shortly after development camp.

In next month’s 32-in-32 Series we will be diving into updated organizational depth charts to identify the prospect risers, fallers, and projected roles for the 2022-23 campaign. 

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on Twitter @KDuggan92.

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