After several days of waiting, the Arizona Coyotes’ season is about to begin.
Tonight the Coyotes kick off their 2016-17 season with a home tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers. After a lively game to end the season series late last year, Arizona hopes to start off the regular season on a high note by contributing to the already lengthy list of rookie players to putt on dazzling displays in their debuts.
View from Philadelphia
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After several underwhelming seasons in a row, the Philadelphia Flyers rebounded to a playoff berth last season thanks in large part to the rejuvenation of Steve Mason and the sizzling debut of Shayne Gostisbehere, who might have made a stronger case for the Calder Trophy had he started the season in Philadelphia.
This offseason, the Flyers didn’t change much; they essentially swapped depth forwards with Arizona by letting Ryan White sign with the Coyotes and signing Boyd Gordon instead. They also promoted their two 2015 first-round choices - forward Travis Konecny (24th overall) and defenseman Ivan Provorov (7th overall) - to the NHL.
The infusion of high quality talent should give the Flyers a decent shot at building on last season’s playoff performance, where they gave the President’s Trophy recipient Washington Capitals a run for their money in the opening round.
Philadelphia comes into this game having won 4-2 in Los Angeles last night. Arizona will hope to take advantage of the later start brought about by both a game in the Pacific Time Zone and the typical delay that stems from home openers.
View from Arizona
Like Philadelphia, Arizona is going to give its younger players a shot at becoming full-time NHL players. The difference is Arizona simply has more of them.
Leading the way are 2014 second round choice Christian Dvorak (58th overall), 2015 first round choices Dylan Strome (3rd overall) and Lawson Crouse (11th overall by Florida), and 2016 first round pick Jakob Chychrun (16th overall). 2013 second round pick Laurent Dauphin (39th overall) will also be on the opening night roster after a brief three game stint last season.
The big question will be how long each player stays with Arizona; Dave Tippett seems to really like Dauphin and there is a spot in the top-six for either Dvorak or Strome to take, but nobody is guaranteed anything. And with Arizona’s injuries on defense likely only short-term problems, Chychrun is really going to have to prove he deserves to stick.
But for now, the youngsters are going to represent the Desert Dogs. Get ready for what should be a very fun season.
- Who is ready for the NHL? - The Coyotes have a variety of extremely young players on opening night. Some - like Jordan Martinook and Tobias Rieder - made the most of their call-up to the show. Others - like Lucas Lessio and Jordan Szwarz - demonstrated they were not quite ready for regular NHL action. What will we see from the young Coyotes tonight?
- Can Alex Goligoski fix the defense? - It isn’t fair to put the entire responsibility of improving the defensive end on the shoulders of Alex Goligoski, but at the same time Goligoski is easily the biggest acquisition the Coyotes made this offseason. They will be relying on him quite a bit to make their defense less top-heavy than last season.
- Is Mike Smith back? - Mike Smith looked darn good in the last couple of months of the 2016-17 season. But is that Mike Smith here to stay? Or is Smith going to continue to be plagued by inconsistency.
Players to Watch
Philadelphia: Ivan Provorov - The defense position has one of the steepest learning curves in the NHL. Provorov will be under quite a bit of pressure to produce for a blue-line that lacks a lot of firepower outside of Gostisbehere. Is he ready for it?
Arizona: Christian Dvorak - Arizona has not really had highly skilled centers on both lines in their top-six for several years now. This is the time for Christian Dvorak to prove that his domination of the OHL was no fluke.
The Flyers are not expected to have Scott Laughton or Michael Del Zotto back until early-November due to lower body injuries that placed them on injured reserve. Radko Gudas and Brayden Schenn are out until later in October due to suspensions, while Brandon Manning has been dealing with a shoulder injury, though he did play last night in Los Angeles.
Arizona will not have Michael Stone or Kevin Connauton; Stone hurt himself the last time these two teams played each other, while Connauton hurt himself over the offseason. Dave Bolland is on long-term IR after the Coyotes acquired him from Florida in the Lawson Crouse trade, while Jamie McGinn and Christian Dvorak are both considered questionable for tonight’s game.
Tonight’s game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to the game on 620 AM KTAR.