The miserable season for the Arizona Coyotes now has a light at the end of the tunnel: an extremely talented prospect in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Yet if the regular season ended today, the Coyotes would finish 29th, with a 66.5% chance of drafting 3rd overall (if any of the teams above them in the standings won the Draft Lottery). That would - if the near unanimous consensus holds true - eliminate the possibility of Arizona selecting either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Yet the consensus that holds McDavid and Eichel are 1st and 2nd overall also maintains that Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin is the next best player available. He has legitimate two-way skill and has drawn favorable comparisons to Rob Blake among some NHL scouts. Given Rob Blake recorded 777 points in 1270 games, that's high praise.
Loath as some Coyotes fans might be to draft yet another defenseman when the team's offensive woes are so blatantly obvious, this season demonstrates better than others that there is always a need to stockpile talent at every position. Noah Hanifin is likely to be the best available player at the #3 position; the Coyotes should think long and hard about drafting him.
- The 3rd overall pick could actually give the Coyotes a significant amount of flexibility. While trading up is almost certainly not going to happen, the team could possibly trade down to a lower position.
- One team that might be open to a first round swap is the Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Leafs are trying to trade Dion Phaneuf this summer, Hanifin would be an excellent replacement. Toronto is currently in the 27th position, and they have Nashville's 1st round selection this year. The Coyotes could acquire both in exchange for their 3rd overall pick.
- The other team in that 4th/5th/6th conversation is the Carolina Hurricanes. They seem far less likely to want to move up to #3, as their defense is in comparably better shape than their offense (27th in goals for vs. 19th in goals against), and they selected defenseman Haydn Fleury in last season's draft.
- Arizona could also leverage that selection in a trade for a bona fide first line center. Would the chance to draft 3rd overall be enough to persuade the San Jose Sharks to part with Joe Thornton? Perhaps not, but Thornton is the caliber of player the Coyotes would want if they gave up that pick.
- This seems unfair:
Mike Smith's save percentage in March: .941. Mike Smith's record in March: 1-7-0.— James O'Brien (@cyclelikesedins) March 23, 2015
- Mike Smith's resurgence seems to no longer be an aberration; it may make sense to give Louis Domingue a series of consecutive starts to see how he handles the rigor of being an everyday goaltender in the NHL.
- Has there ever been so much hype for a pair of games between last place teams? The two tilts in the next week between Arizona and Buffalo are the talk of the hockey world, and are going to be absolutely crucial in determining who has a guaranteed shot at McDavid and Eichel.
- Can Arizona score more than once per game? March 5th versus Vancouver and March 19th versus Colorado were the only two times this month the Coyotes scored twice in the game.
- Can a forward pass Mikkel Boedker? Boedker has 14 goals despite not playing since January. Shane Doan has 13, while Sam Gagner and Tobias Rieder both have 12. Can one of those three pass Boeds?
- Which new guy scores first? Klas Dahlbeck, John Moore, Craig Cunningham, and Tye McGinn are still waiting to score their first goal in Arizona. Who's it going to be? And when will it happen?
Player to Watch
Arizona's ability to surpass Buffalo for last place in the NHL will likely come down to how well Anders Lindback plays, both against the Coyotes and down the stretch for the Sabres. The Coyotes need him to steal a few points for Buffalo here or there.