clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A look at the Arizona Coyotes' organizational depth

New, comments

How does the Arizona Coyotes' prospect pool shake out by position and readiness?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes have a bright future ahead of them, if ESPN's Corey Pronman is to be believed.

Pronman ranked the Coyotes' prospect pool as 4th in the league, behind the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Edmonton Oilers. (If you are an ESPN Insider, you can check out the whole list here. It's worth it). Pronman's closing statement on the Coyotes' system is exciting, to say the very least:

Today, the team is known as a boring, trap-and-defend-style club. In five years, the Coyotes could be a run-and-gun team.

Five years from now, there will be a substantial amount of roster turnover as younger players assume greater roles in the NHL. But which players will make it? And where on the lines will they play? Let's take a look.

Evaluating the Prospect Pool

For the sake of ease, we're going to divide up the Coyotes prospects into three categories: NHL-ready, NHL-replacement, and developing prospects. That way, it's easier to see how many of each prospect the Coyotes have at each position.

NHL ready prospects for our purposes will be players who by consensus are either favored to reach the NHL this season out of training camp, as well as players that have dressed in the past season for the Coyotes.

NHL replacement prospects are players who can either play their way into a roster spot with a strong training camp (think Justin Hodgman from last season), or are standby injury call-ups should someone on the parent club has to miss time. This group will include a mix of young and older players.

Developing prospects are players who were either recently drafted, or have yet to make the jump towards serious contention for roster spots. They may need more seasoning in major-junior or minor league hockey, or might simply not have a very high talent ceiling.

For the sake of ease, we will also be listing the players in the position indicated on the Coyotes' team site. In all likelihood, some players will swap spots as circumstances dictate.

The NHL Ready Prospects

When it comes to NHL ready prospects, the Coyotes actually have a fairly large number of players who have either played in the NHL last year or are odds-on favorites to make it this year. But when you look at where each player lines up, the glut of prospects is pretty imbalanced:

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Anthony Duclair Max Domi Jordan Szwarz
Brendan Perlini Dylan Strome
Christian Dvorak Brendan Shinnimin
Craig Cunningham Tyler Gaudet
Lucas Lessio Henrik Samuelsson
Jordan Martinook
Left Defense Right Defense
Philip Samuelsson Dylan Reese
Goaltender
Anders Lindback
Louis Domingue* (will play in Europe)

Available roster spots will force movement for many Coyotes. With four veteran centers under contract, Max Domi is a prime candidate to move over to wing. Anthony Duclair has versatility on the wings, so he may move over to right wing given the shortage of available wingers on that side.

On defense however, the Coyotes are pretty balanced between Samuelsson and Reese. Who becomes the Coyotes' third goaltending option after Mike Smith and Anders Lindback is a huge question.

NHL Replacement Prospects

By the time the season starts, this list will be populated by more than a few players on the first list. The wing imbalance remains a serious concern for the Coyotes.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Matthias Plachta Dustin Jeffrey
Eric Selleck
Left Defense Right Defense
Derek Smith Alex Grant

Goaltender
Niklas Treutle

There are plenty of stand-by veterans who could fill specific roles on the parent club should circumstances dictate. Selleck is a backup enforcer type should John Scott's services not be available at any point, while Dustin Jeffrey has 124 games of NHL experience should the team need a replacement forward.

Matthias Plachta is an intriguing case. He put up 35 points in 47 regular season games with Adler Manheim of the German League (DEL), and added nine more points in 15 playoff games. A one-year entry-level deal is not a whole lot of time to prove oneself, but if Plachta makes a splash early on, he could be another injury replacement option for Dave Tippett, given his age (24) and his experience over in Europe.

On defense, Derek Smith and Alex Grant have both seen NHL action before, but also aren't the first line of callups thanks to the current logjam on defense in Arizona. Niklas Treutle is unproven in North America, but his strong play in the DEL should give him a great chance to become the starting netminder in Springfield this coming season.

Developing Prospects

Many of these players won't even play professional hockey next season; some are still playing in the NCAA while others have more time to spend in major-junior leagues in North America and Europe.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Michael Bunting Laurent Dauphin Anton Karlsson
Brendan Warren Ryan MacInnis Nick Merkley
Zac Larraza Maxim Letunov Christian Fischer
Samuel Fejes Jedd Soleway Jens Looke
Jared Fiegl Conor Garland
Edgars Kulda
Left Defense Right Defense
Dakota Mermis Dysin Mayo
Justin Hache James Melindy
David Westlund Rhett Holland
Kyle Capobianco Connor Clifton
Goaltenders
Marek Langhamer Adin Hill Erik Kallgren

At last, the Coyotes get some desperately needed balance on the right wing. Both Fischer and Merkley are listed as centers and right wingers, but given the organizational depth as well as the needs of modern NHL centers, both players project to be wings moving forward.

Down the middle, Ryan MacInnis seems to be Martin Hanzal's heir apparent, while Letunov is an intriguing prospect as well. As is normal for all NHL teams, many of these prospects are either late round picks with low expectations, or first and second rounders who need seasoning.

On defense, the pool is balanced, but not particularly star studded. Dysin Mayo has taken on a leadership role with the Edmonton Oil Kings, while Kyle Capobianco and Dakota Mermis both have playmaking abilities. But nobody stands out as a strong contender to be a top four defenseman in the NHL. At least not yet.

In goal, both Adin Hill and Erik Kallgren should spend the next year with their respective junior teams. Marek Langhamer seems ready to make the leap to Springfield however, and will duel with Treutle for the starting job at the AHL level.

Final Thoughts

The Coyotes absolutely drafted for need in 2015. Four of their six right wing prospects were selected this year, and Don Maloney selected Dylan Strome with the #1 center position in mind.

What comes next though? Auston Matthews in another can't miss player at the top of the 2016 prospects list, and the Coyotes would get an outstanding local favorite if they were able to draft him.

But should the new Draft Lottery rules kick Arizona out of the Top Three, or if the Coyotes beat expectations on the year and end up drafting later in the first round, then selecting a puck-moving defenseman in the mold of Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Keith Yandle seems to be a more urgent priority.

Still, the Coyotes have the components in their system to score with reckless abandon in the next few years. Only time will tell however if the team can successfully develop enough of them into NHL players.