Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
Ever since John Chayka became General Manager for the Coyotes in 2016, he’s selected a relatively unexpected player in the first round. Clayton Keller in his first draft as the big man, PO Joseph in 2017, and then Barrett Hayton last year, Chayka has been nothing short of unpredictable. He didn’t let us down this year either, trading the 14th overall selection and the team’s second-round pick (45th overall) to Philadelphia to slide up three spots to pick No. 11. It only seemed logical Chayka would fill an organizational need and select a top-end scorer (Mathew Boldy, Peyton Krebs and probably the best pure goal scorer in this year’s draft, Cole Caufield were all still available) but Chayka went in another direction and selected Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom. Much like last years draft where the Coyotes selected Hayton over Filip Zadina, this year’s selection will have fans questioning what Chayka was thinking for at least a few years till we get a better grip on how these picks ultimately pan out.
1st round, 11th overall: Victor Soderstrom, D
The Coyotes were convinced that Florida was trying to move up to draft Soderstrom, so they did what they had to do to get a player both Chayka and scouting director Lindsay Hofford believe was one of the best available. Every general manager in pretty much every sport will tell you how they had their first-round pick rated highly. It’s one of those time-honored clichés we never get tired of hearing but the Coyotes willingness to give up a second-round pick supports that notion. “We saw him throughout the whole year- I don’t know how many viewings, but hundreds of viewings,” Hofford said shorty after making the selection. “Right across the board, he was a five-star guy for us so it was a no-brainer. We liked every aspect of his game and every aspect of his character.”
Soderstrom began the season in junior but worked his way up to the SHL level, logging significant minutes and getting power-play time as a 17-year-old in a men’s league. A smooth skater, he transitions the puck up the ice quickly and is considered an elite puck mover. He’s a very intelligent player who reads the play very well. Despite not being very big (6ft, 183lbs) he’s a good defender. Soderstrom closes gaps very well due to his IQ, using his body and stick to break up pucks, and makes a lot of stops. Scouts wonder if he has a dynamic side but the Coyotes believe Soderstrom was brought along slowly because he was so young and were impressed by his mature and complete game.
Fantasy wise it’s hard right now to say what kind of impact Soderstrom will have. Looking at his stats from last season, four goals and seven points in 44 games, and it’s hard to see a elite point producing defenseman. At the same time though his team was not good and he was very young in a men’s league. Reading Scott Wheeler of The Athletic assessment of this pick, he wasn’t very high on it, believing Soderstrom projects as a second-pairing defenseman who might be able to help out on a second power-play. He’s close to being NHL ready though and while Soderstrom is signed for another season in the SHL he could play this upcoming campaign in the AHL and should suit up for Sweden at the 2020 WJC.
Chayka also tends to trade higher picks for more selections in the later rounds. He kept that trend up this year trading pick 74 to Pittsburgh for 98, 151 and 207. I guess it’s a quantity over quality type thing, but I don’t totally get it.
3rd round, 76th overall: John Farinacci, C
After playing for Shattuck-St. Mary’s for his sophomore year, Farinacci tried out for the USNTDP where he unfortunately did not make the team. Instead of playing in the USHL, he headed to where his cousin and friend Ryan Donato played and took his talents to Dexter Academy. There he put up some big points and will head to Harvard University this season, following Ryan’s footsteps again and play for his uncle and former NHLer Ted Donato. Some scouts had Farinacci rated higher, but it was hard to get a read on him this past year because he missed a big part of the season with a knee injury and played against lesser competition. He’s a very gifted offensive player though who always seems to find ways to create offense and create plays. Also, just as important he’s a goal scorer, something the Coyotes desperately needed in their system. Farinacci is a leader too, wearing the C for his Dexter squad but also Team USA’s entry at last summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, where he notched a point-per-game. His skating needs some serious work but that can improve over time making Farinacci a long-term project.
4th round, 98th overall: Matias Maccelli, LW
This pick looks to be a possible steal for the Coyotes. Maccelli just finished third in USHL scoring with 72 points in 62 games. His 31 goals were good for fourth and racked up 22 power-play assists finishing second in the league. He played in all situation’s for Dubuque and even was one of their better penalty-killers. While his skating isn’t elite it’s good and he’s an excellent puck handler who can create separation from defenders with his hands. This is another selection who possesses some serious skill to his game. But just like Farinacci, Maccelli has some warts. He lacks pace to his game, not challenging defenders with speed when he has the puck and struggles to make plays on the move. The talent is there so it’s interesting to see how he plays at the pro level this coming season as Maccelli will play in the Finnish Liiga.
4th round, 107th overall: Alexandr Darin, RW
Darin was one of the biggest risers this season. He went from playing on Yaroslavl’s junior B team to looking like one of Russia’s most talented young players. This is Darin’s second time at the draft going undrafted last year. In Russia’s main junior league, he had 20 goals and 35 points in 47 games for Loko Yaroslavl. He’s a fun player to watch as Darin has a ton of pace to his game, always attacking. He’s quick, skilled and very creative. Darin is an excellent playmaker who also a skilled goal scorer. He could be a sleeper or very well maybe Darin just stays in the KHL and has no interest in coming to North America but either way interesting pick.
5th round, 151st overall: Aku Raty, RW
Raty played Finnish junior hockey last year with Karpat, collecting 19 goals and 26 assists in 52 games. He has some good speed, compete and hockey sense. Raty makes some plays and has shown good scoring touch around the net. At the 2019 U18’s he scored twice in five games and impressed many observers with his play at the tournament. Not surprisingly for a fifth rounder, if Raty makes the NHL it will be at least a few seasons and he projects as more of a bottom-six player.
6th round, 174th overall: Danil Savunov, LW
This pick came out of left field as no one really had Savunov ranked on any lists. The only ranking that he seemed to be on was No. 66 among European players by Draftin Europe. Trying to find any info on him is hard. It looks like he played most of last season in the VHL (3rd-tier Russian pro) for Dizel Penza, recording six goals and nine assists in 45 games. Obviously, the Coyotes scouting group saw something in him they liked, now if they could share that with the rest of us it would be appreciated.
6th round, 176th overall: Anthony Romano, C
Even though it was extremely disappointing to find out Anthony has no relation to Ray Romano, he still looks to be a solid hockey player. He put up 26 goals and 47 points in 60 games playing for Sioux Falls in the USHL. For a sixth-rounder he has some decent skill to his game and skates well too. Even though his team won the Clark Cup (USHL championship), Romano wasn’t a big part of it, putting up just three points in 10 playoff games. He’ll play for Clarkson this coming season, and while there are some things to like about his game, he’s another project.
7th round, 200th overall: Axel Bergkvis, D
Breaking the streak of drafting forwards after seven straight the Coyotes grabbed defenseman Bergkvist. Playing last season for Leksands IF, he split the year between the club’s junior squad and the main team in the HockeyAllsvenskan. He’s small (5-9) but is heavy (201 lbs) and plays well in the offensive zone, defensively Bergkvist still needs some work. He has decent vision and offensive instincts with an effective shot from the point. Bergkvist posted three goals and 10 points in 36 pro games to go with 12 goals and 21 points in 23 junior games. Where he’ll play this coming season is still of a mystery but Bergkvist was drafted by the Kitchener Rangers in the CHL Import Draft with a strong possibility he will suit up there.
7th round, 207th overall: Valentin Nussbaumer, C
Another Chayka draft day highlight is him picking a fun but long shot prospect with a late round selection. Two years ago it was Tyler Steenbergen, then 2018 draft it was Liam Kirk. This year he went with Valentin Nussbaumer. Before 2018-19 started, Nussbaumer was a highly regarded prospect, considered by many to possibly get picked near the top of the draft. At just 17-years-old, he’d already debuted with the top league in his home country of Switzerland and played in both the U18 and U20 tournaments. Taken fourth overall in the CHL Import Draft, Nussbaumer looked primed to take over the QMJHL with the talent-starved Shawinigan Cataractes. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned with Shawinigan still terrible, winning just 14 games and Nussbaumer not really tearing it up offensively, 17 goals and 38 points in 58 games. While plus/minus is losing stock in the hockey world, going a minus-49 still sticks out badly. His skating isn’t great, and he needs a lot of work away from the offensive zone. Nussbaumer is very skilled though and a smart, creative playmaker so this is a worthwhile seventh round pick.
Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. That was nine picks by the way, seven forwards and two defensemen. Fantasy wise, Soderstrom is the cream of the crop with some of the other picks having potential but more of projects. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Soderstrom playing for the Coyotes in 2020-21. I personally really like Maccelli but he’s no sure thing.
The Coyotes held their development camp from June 24th to the 28th, check out the invites here. These development camps are more of an orientation period than anything so it’s hard to put a huge amount of stock into them. I have to say it was very exciting to see Sean Dhooghe there and if you don’t know who he is first off you’re a horrible person but read this. A couple standouts though were the obvious Barrett Hayton, who would be a surprise to not be in the NHL this season. Kevin Bahl was very good but the star of the camp was Matias Maccelli, whose play especially in the intra-squad scrimmage really stood out. As I wrote above, he could be a steal taken in the third-round.
If you somehow missed it the worst kept secret in the NHL finally happened as Phil Kessel was traded to the Coyotes. It was sad to see one of the team’s top prospects in PO Joseph go the other way but Arizona badly needed goal scoring and Kessel does that. Plus, Coyote fans can make hot dog jokes now. The Coyotes also acquired Carl Soderberg a couple days earlier giving the team some veterans who are durable and hopefully bring their offense out of the basement. Chayka says he’s not done yet either, but I don’t see any of the big free-agents signing in Arizona so anyone he picks up will probably be a depth player (sorry I wrote this before July 1st) unless he makes another big trade.
Check back in tomorrow for the Boston Bruins entry into the July 31-in-31 Series!
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