After finished second last in the NHL in 2014-15 and getting jumped in the Connor McDavid – Jack Eichel sweepstakes by the Oilers, the Arizona Coyotes surprisingly stayed in the playoff race for the majority of last season. While they ended up dropping off quite a bit at the end of the season, there are plenty of bright spots for the organization going forward. On top of the young talent that was already on the roster, there are some new Desert Dogs ready to make their NHL debut. While I don’t see them contending for the playoffs this time around, the future is incredibly bright with plenty of fantasy assets. Let’s take a look at what they’re working with:
This situation is still quite a mess. Mike Smith is the number one again after injuries limited him to 32 games. His save percentage was .916, his best in 5 years, but the goals against average was an ugly 2.64. Smith has a history of getting incredibly hot for a couple weeks only to crash and burn for a couple weeks after. The consistency isn’t there at all so I’m not looking to draft him in 12’ers. I don’t think he’ll be on waivers but if he is, look to see if he’s playing well and then run the hot schmotato until he lays a egg.
Louis Domingue is their backup but there’s a chance he takes over the job from a slumping Smith. Domingue played 39 games last season and posted a 2.75 GAA and .912 save percentage. It’s simply not good enough and should be left on the waiver wire. I don’t think the Coyotes goaltender of the future is currently in the organization so even in dynasties, I wouldn’t take either of these guys.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is clearly the best player on the Coyotes. He took another step last season with 21 goals and 34 assists in 75 games, including over 3 shots per game, 27 PPP and 96 PIM. It’s an incredible stat line across the board which makes him a clear #1 defenseman in real life and fantasy. I have OEL at 32nd overall making him worthy of a third round pick in standard leagues.
His partner will be Michael Stone again who proved himself last season to be worthy in fantasy as well. Stone finished with 6 goals and 30 assists in 75 games with 62 PIM and just over 2 shots per game. It’s bottom end but with his big minutes, including power play time, Stone should be drafted in 12’ers with a late pick.
The big offseason signing was Alex Goligoski who should slot on the second pair. The question is whether or not he’s on the first power play unit, with either him or OEL on their off side, or the second power play unit. Gogo is bottom end for the assists but the goals and shots are going to be poor. If you are short on assists, he should do fine as your last defenseman but I’ll be looking elsewhere.
If one of these guys were to get injured, then Kevin Connauton should be on your radar. He had a very nice streak, including 6 points in 6 games when OEL was out, so there’s upside here if he gets the opportunity. The problem is that he won’t to start the season.
Pavel Datsyuk is a Coyote! What a move acquiring him! It would be funny to see someone get a Datsyuk Coyotes jersey. The Coyotes acquired him to reach the salary cap floor; too bad they already knew he was going back to Russia. It’s amazing that they now have Datsyuk and Chris Pronger on their books. Anyways, to the players that matter…
Upside, upside, upside. Almost all of these forwards have the chance to break out in a big way. The most likely is Max Domi who had a terrific rookie season with 18 goals and 34 assists. Add in 72 penalty minutes and you have the making of a potential fantasy stud. Domi is still only 21 years old and should see an increase in minutes as a first liner this year. If the shots increase like they do for most players in year two, then there’s 25+35 potential for this season already. I have Domi ranked 86th overall saying he has potential to be a top 50 player and I stand by that.
If he starts to take more shots, Anthony Duclair has tremendous upside. He finished 20 goals and 24 assists with 49 PIM in his first full season in the NHL. He shot an absurd 19% which won’t happen again but that can be counterbalanced by simply shooting the puck more. Now that he has a first line role, I expect everything to uptick across the board. I have Duclair barely in my Top 150 at 144th for the potential he carries.
Martin Hanzal should center these two young guns. Hanzal was outstanding last season with 13 goals, 28 assists and 77 PIM in only 64 games. The problem is that he’s missed significant time in 6 straight seasons. That history puts him outside of my top 150 but in the later rounds, Hanzal is a great pick to produce top 100 value until he gets injured. It should be plus across the board with a huge plus in penalty minutes.
Getting screwed in the lottery left the Coyotes with Dylan Strome. Strome should make his NHL debut this season and I expect him to center the second line due to the lack of alternatives. While he doesn’t have the massive upside McDavid and Eichel do, Strome will still have a tremendous impact. I think a 20+30 season is possible as a rookie assuming he gets a top 6 role right away. With Hanzal’s history, I expect Strome to get some time on the top line as well. He’s a great late round pick in redrafts and an elite option in dynasties.
A lesser prospect who should debut this season as well, Christian Dvorak has a good chance of cracking the top 6 as well. His season in London last year was jaw-dropping; in 59 games he scored 52 goals and 69 assists with a +56. The opposition had no chance of stopping him and while I don’t expect that to happen immediately in the NHL, Dvorak should have an impact. I’m not drafting him in 12’ers but he’s on my radar already for streaming; he’s my best bet for a player who isn’t drafted that is a fantasy surprise this year. In dynasties, he’s an under the radar guy who isn’t far off the elite tier of prospects.
Radim Vrbata is back in the Desert after a brief stint in Vancouver. To call Vrbata a bust last season doesn’t do it justice. He finished with 13 goals and 14 assists in 63 games while being a whopping -30. Now, the shots remained terrific and he’s one year off from being a 30+30 guy. With one of my last picks, I love taking the shot on Vrbata in case things click again.
The third line is headlined by Shane Doan. The last original Jet in the league, Doan scored 28 goals and 19 assists with a whopping 98 PIM in 72 games last season. The issue that I have is that Doan shot a career high 16.5%; even including last season he’s a career 10.4% shooter over 20 years. That number is surely going to drop towards 20 goals or even lower if the shots don’t go up slightly. If you’re short on PIM, Doan is a nice flier late in drafts hoping that he gets a lot of PP time again.
Jamie McGinn is their forward signing from the offseason after splitting the season in Buffalo and Anaheim. He played 84 games last season due to the trade and scored 22 goals and 17 assists. In deep leagues, there’s some value here assuming he stays healthy. In 12’ers, it’s not quite enough to draft but I’m looking to stream him early in the year to see what his role is.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Dylan Strome
2) Christian Dvorak
3) Clayton Keller
4) Jakob Chychrun
5) Nick Merkley
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks. Be sure to listen to the most recent podcast when you get a chance! As always, feel free to ask any questions and leave any comments below. Take care!