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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have a fantastic core of young talent, how well can they utilize it?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Ninth up are the Arizona Coyotes who are in their 21st season as a franchise, after making the playoffs each of the first 4 seasons, they have only made it back 4 times in the last 16 seasons most recently in 2011-2012 where they lost in the conference finals the Kings amidst the Kings first Stanley Cup.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 27th
Western Conference Standings: 12th
Pacific Division Standings: 6th
Goals for Rank: 27th
Goals against Rank: 28th

Overview: The Arizona Coyotes have been in rebuild mode showing flashes of it coming to fruition as Max Domi and Anthony Duclair had 52 and 47 points respectively in 2015-2016 before hitting sophomore slumps and regressing to 38 and 15 points in 2016-2017. I think they can bounce back in their third year with Derek Stepan as  the top line center. Behind the top line they aren't deep but the potential second line of Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome and Tobias Rieder has young star power that has an outsiders chance of mimicking what Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander and Mitchel Marner saw last year (combined 122 points). A more realistic guess would put them both at 40 points (Clayton scored 45 points across 31 games at Boston University before joining the Coyotes and netting 2 points in 3 games, Dylan Strome had 111 points across 56 games before joining the Coyotes with 1 point across 7 games). The potential for goal scoring is there among the top two lines but especially with the second line,  I anticipate they will be very up and down as you watch their true talent fight against the learning curve that is the NHL. Clayton and Dylan have such pure scoring talent that I believe they will be productive. In net Antti Raanta has a collective 47 wins across 70 starts with a 2.32 GAA and a .917 Save Percentage over 4 seasons (that's only about 17 starts per season. Is he ready for full season playing time? If so, then he can be a powerful force for the Coyotes. Mike Smith worked some serious magic over the last few years and now it's time for Antti to take the reins. The advantage that Antti has is that the defense in front of him has culminated into a solid group: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski and Jakob Chychrun. The Coyotes defense is one of the most improved units during the offseason. I think you see improvements on both goals scored and goals allowed as they move up to  around 25th in both categories.

Major Additions: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta
Major Subtractions: Radim Vrbata, Teemu Pulkkinen

Prospects and Picks:
-Arizona trades their first round pick (7th overall) to the New York Rangers in exchange for Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan and personally I LOVE the deal. Sure Lias Andersson will be good in a few years but this gave Arizona and tested and true goalie and a first line center. They have a ton of prospects, this trade secured two important needs for the team.

-Christian Fischer. The 32nd overall pick in the 2015 draft played with both the U17 and U18 teams scoring 53 points across 59 games before a promotion to the Springfield Falcons and Tucson Roadrunners (both AHL) where he had 50 points across 63 games. He proved himself at each level and was brought up for a brief 7 game stint with the Coyotes last year where he scored 3 goals over 10 shots! Projecting who the Coyotes decide to keep and send down between Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer will likely run up until the final deciding days but all three have entertaining upside.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Clayton Keller. It's not a lock that he makes the roster but if he does I think he can have what Zach Werenski/ Jake Guentzel had last year (between 33 -€” 47 points). Especially if they give him top 6 minutes with the talents of Dylan Strome or Max Domi coupled with some PP time.

This team is ripe with potential steals for 40-60 points: Max Domi, Derek Stepan, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair are all capable of overachieving on their expectations. They won't be your Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel type of star but they will be a good deep flier that could yield solid benefits.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $19.3MM (most in the NHL) with 20 player signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 23rd
Western Conference Standings: 11th
Pacific Division 5th

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)