The Coyotes have a fair amount of high-end talent coming up through the system in the likes of Brandon Perlini, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Henrik Samuelsson and possibly one of Mitch Marner, Lawson Crouse or Dylan Strome.
As is evident from this year's playoffs though, successful teams need a pipeline of cheap young players ready to contribute at the NHL level. The Blackhawks, Lightning, Ducks, Capitals, Islanders and others all have the high end young forwards but - just as importantly - have less heralded players they developed contributing too. For every Steven Stamkos or Patrick Kane there is a Tyler Johnson or Brandon Saad.
The Coyotes are often criticized for their forward depth, and it was quite apparent why this year. Are Tye McGinn, Joe Vitale and Kyle Chipchura really worthy of third-line minutes? The top two lines have not and probably will not compensate for a lack of forward depth, at least not right now. Therefore, it is time to see who can help internally before gauging what kind of forwards the Coyotes want to go after on the open-market.
Let's take a look at forward play in the AHL the past two years to see who is a candidate to help the Coyotes moving forward.
Why Shot Statistics
Points per game is one of the simplest statistics but it is also one of the most important. If a player cannot score at a decent clip in the AHL they have no shot at an NHL career.
Shots per game might be the most revealing AHL statistic available, because they include both a larger sample size than goals, which ideally measures what positive contributions a player makes in any given game.
Besides for true playmakers (like Joe Thornton, Mikko Koivu and Nick Backstrom) forwards that are contributing positively to possession and scoring should generate shots.
Shots and Points Per Game among AHL Forwards - 2013-15
Lucas Lessio is a player. His 2.7 shots per game are better than any other forward in the system currently, while Tobias Rieder is close behind. Henrik Samuelsson, Brendan Shinnimin, and Jordan Szwarz are not quite at the same level as Lessio and Rieder, but appear to be progressing nicely.
Jordan Martinook and Justin Hodgman are the furthest behind in terms of generating shots in a game. For Hodgman, that isn't entirely surprising, as he has likely reached his ceiling as an AHL/NHL player. Martinook is a 2nd round draft choice of the Coyotes back in 2011, so his time in Arizona is approaching make-or-break time.
Alexandre Bolduc has proven to be a fine replacement level player, but has not established the consistency necessary to hold down an NHL job long-term. Of the Coyotes' main forwards, Bolduc, Hodgman, and Martinook all seem to be the most likely candidates for the role of NHL journeyman.
Based on the numbers, Tobias Rieder's lengthy NHL look this season was a reward for his solid play, and Lucas Lessio appears to be not far behind. When players like Anthony Duclair and Max Domi enter the mix for spots in the professional club (be it AHL or NHL) - the Coyotes should have more than a few options to bolster their forwards next season.