NHL Prospects

Draft Lotto Results Created Tough Choice for Coyotes

Draft Lotto Results Created Tough Choice for Coyotes
Robert Nasso

Until Saturday night, there was a 20 percent chance that the Arizona Coyotes would land NCAA-leading scorer and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. But when Edmonton won the lottery and pushed Buffalo into Arizona’s spot, Coyotes fans were disappointed to find out that they would be getting neither of the two generational talents at the top of this draft.

Normally, sliding down one spot due to lottery changes would not be a big deal. The one problem here though is that Noah Hanifin is ranked third by NHL Central Scouting. Hanifin is a two-way defender who just finished an exceptional freshman season at Boston College. He also manned the blue line for Team USA as an underager at the World Junior tournament this past winter, and he’s the top-ranked defenseman for this draft.

All of those credentials make Hanifin the most attractive prospect after the two centers at the top, and it seems as though his talent and size make him a future top-pairing defender who can make the jump to the NHL this fall. But the last thing the Coyotes need right now is a top left-handed defender, as they have already found that in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. In fact, they don’t need another left-handed defenseman at all, since they have John Moore, Brandon Gormley and Klas Dahlbeck behind Ekman-Larsson who all have the potential to be top-six d-men at some point.

So what does GM Don Maloney do with the pick. Well, he’s got two options: go a bit off the board and select a top forward, or trade the pick and hope that the forward he wants will be available in his new draft slot. Realistically, the farthest down the Coyotes should go is fifth overall; the top-five this year contains potentially elite talent, and Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner are at the tail end of that select group.

The case to take Dylan Strome makes some sense. Coyotes center prospect Max Domi scored over 100 points in the OHL this year, and he faced off against fellow 100+ point scorer Dylan Strome in the second round of the OHL playoffs. In fact, Strome won the scoring title after putting up 129 points in 68 games, and Domi was a standout at the 2015 World Junior Tournament for Canada, so having the two of them down the middle would make for great center depth to build around.

But there’s a better way the Coyotes could go about this draft.

No one likes tanking; it’s a selfish method that goes against all the morals that make up a hockey player as well as a professional sports team. However, some organizations need to blow up their rosters and rebuild when the window to being a contender closes.

Having said that, the Coyotes seem poised for another tough season in 2015-2016, and that means they’ll get a high draft pick. There is some risk involved with this idea, but should they be able to select Scottsdale, Arizona native Auston Matthews at the 2016 NHL Draft with a top pick, it may make more sense for them to take high-scoring winger Mitch Marner at this year’s draft.

Marner scored 126 points with the London Knights which put him second behind Strome on the OHL scoring leaders list. He scored 44 goals playing primarily on a line with Coyotes prospects Max Domi and Christian Dvorak, so the three could potentially be reunited in Arizona.

Looking at things deeper, it makes sense to take Marner rather than Strome because the Coyotes do not have a top right-wing prospect beyond Anthony Duclair, and they already have Martin Hanzal as a full-time NHLer to play either behind or in front of Max Domi at the center position. Their pipeline is filled with center talent as well, with names like Henrik Samuelsson, Laurent Dauphin and Ryan MacInnis topping the list.

The icing on the cake in all of this would be landing Matthews at next June’s draft. As previously mentioned, tanking is not a tactic they should or would employ. And had they theoretically done that, it wouldn’t even work because the top three selections at the draft next year are all going to be lottery-based.

But just imagine Don Maloney going up to the podium in Buffalo next June and announcing Auston Matthews as Arizona’s selection. A forward core in the future featuring Matthews, Duclair, Domi, Marner, Dvorak and Brendan Perlini would be a coup for the Coyotes.

  • disqus_pMhmwyBFzq

    Just like Buffalo this year with no. 1 overall, the chance that Arizona gets him next year is remote. Not only that, Arizona could be the worst team next year and pick 4th because the NHL doesn’t want to have the worst teams get better. If I were Arizona I would trade down from 3 and acquire first round picks for next year to try and increase your odds to get this Matthews kid. This years draft is very deep. Teams will be willing to trade up and firsts could be acquired for next year.

  • Steve Ives

    Outstanding analysis, Robert! I agree in my latest mock that the Coyotes choose Strome, although Marner is a possibility which you explain quite well.

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NHL Prospects
Robert Nasso

Rob is a New York Rangers fan from New Jersey. He writes primarily about NHL prospects, as well as hockey prospects playing in the CHL, NCAA, and other junior circuits. He currently goes to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY where he studies both sports communication and journalism, and has written for both Blades of Teal and Too Many Men On The Site (both branches of Fansided) before coming to Today’s SlapShot.

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