In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. First up are the Arizona Coyotes who are entering their 46th season (22nd in Arizona). They have not made the playoffs in six years and seem to be continuing to rebuild.
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 29th
Western Conference Standings: 15th
Pacific Division Standings: 8th
Goals for Rank: 30th
Goals against Rank: 24th
PP Rank: 26th
PK Rank: 19th
Coach: Rick Tocchet (2nd season; 29-41-12 record)
For starters, I picked Colorado Avalanche in this spot last year and they went on to clinch a playoff spot so quite honestly, what do I know? Under their first full season without Captain Shane Doan, not a whole lot changed. The Coyotes could not generate much offense (29th in shots on goal and 30th in goals scored). Clayton Keller gave a glimpse of future franchise player finishing as a nominee for the Calder Trophy, scoring 23 goals and 65 points across 82 games. Derek Stepan was more of what you can grow to expect every year from him (14-18 goals; 53-57 points). Oliver Ekman-Larsson did his best on defense as did Alex Goligoski but a handful of players are not enough in this day and age to make a meaningful impact. In net, Antti Raanta was dominant with a 2.24 GAA and .930 Sv% giving him the 2nd best GAA and Sv %. He helped carry the team as the other five goalies (Darcy Kuemper, Scott Wedgewood, Adin Hill, Louis Domingue and Marek Langhamer) all allowed over 3.2 GAA with sub .900 Sv %. This team truly encapsulates the notion of a handful of players trying to do all of the work.
Major Additions: Alex Galchenyuk
Major Subtractions: Max Domi
Prospects and Picks
With the 5th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Arizona selected Barrett Hayton. It was early to grab him but he is supposed to be like Patrice Bergeron. He sees the ice well and reads the progression of plays. He scored 21 goals and scored 60 points in 63 games playing 2nd line minutes. His relentless pursuit and willingness to work as a team make his teammates better and his skills will be much needed for Arizona. I think he’s got at least 1 year, maybe 2 before we see him in the NHL.
Nick Merkley is another name to look for. After scoring 18 goals and 39 points across 38 games with the Tucson Roadrunners, Ryan got one game in the NHL before a right knee injury that ended his season. Given the lack of high end talent on the Coyotes roster, Nick will be competing for a spot on the roster this season and shows upside with his ability to score.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Antti Raanta was the best asset on this team last year. Finishing 2nd in GAA and Sv%, not to mention 3 shutouts, he was helpful in just about every area not named “wins”. He signed a three year contract in the offseason so I anticipate the drive dips a smidge and maybe he falls more around 10th in GAA and Sv%. I think Clayton Keller will continue his goal scoring (last year at a 10.8% click) and I am expecting to see Dylan Strome step up a bit (25 games; 4 goals and 9 games last year scoring at 13% pace).
$53MM Spent; $25M in Cap room; 18 players signed; average team age 26