We are tantalizingly close to the NHL Draft. And in Friday's first round, the Arizona Coyotes are expected to pick twice. While the #7 pick has generated the most attention, the #20 pick will also be a tough one for the Coyotes.
We’ve already explored the possibility of Arizona moving their two picks around. And in our SB Nation Mock Draft, we opted to trade down to #27 in order to receive an extra second round pick.
But assuming the Coyotes stay where they are, what are some of the most intriguing names that may be waiting?
Dante Fabbro - Defenseman - Penticton Bees (BCHL)
Like I said before in analyzing the post-Goligoski landscape, Fabbro probably does not get this far in the draft. He’s one of two right handed defensive prospects slated to go somewhere in the first round. RHDs are at a premium right now in the NHL, so Fabbro would be a strong candidate to get drafted by a team with no immediate need for defense but with looming deficiencies on the horizon.
On the other hand, Fabbro would be a project no matter what; he’s not yet even playing at the highest level of Canadian junior hockey; the BCHL is a good league that has produced decent NHL players before, but success in the BCHL does not automatically translate to success in the CHL, let alone the NHL.
Still, NHL defensemen that are alums of the BCHL include Willie Mitchell, Justin Schultz, and most notably, Duncan Keith. So it's not as though the Coyotes would be doing something unheard of. And if there’s any GM in the league that isn’t afraid of doing something risky or unorthodox, it’s probably John Chayka.
Fabbro has the upside to be a nice complement to Arizona's top-four, and another quarterback in waiting for the power play. He would be a solid choice should he be available at #20.
Charles McAvoy - Defenseman - Boston University (NCAA)
The other right-handed shot generating a lot of buzz in the mid-round, McAvoy may also not make it all the way to #20. McAvoy produced three goals and twenty-two assists for the Terriers in his first season of NCAA hockey, which is impressive given the relatively truncated NCAA season and the league's less high-scoring nature.
McAvoy is roughly the same size as Fabbro, albeit slightly smaller and not as built. His playing against higher level competition is definitely a check-mark in his favor, but at the same time he doesn't appear to have the scoring touch that Fabbro has generated. That is not necessarily bad - power play specialists on the back-end tend to rack up assists anyways - but it is the difference between being a Michael Stone or Keith Yandle power play quarterback and an Oliver Ekman-Larsson power play guy; the former are dangerous because of their passing skills, while the latter is dangerous because of his all around offensive ability.
A team like the Boston Bruins could really use a guy like McAvoy to bolster a back-end that will lose Zdeno Chara soon. Coupled with the fact that he's a Terrier, and McAvoy may not get past the B's at #14. He's also a native Long Islander, which might make the New York Islanders at #19 particularly interested as well.
Max Jones - Left Wing - London Knights (OHL)
Why not go back to London for a forward prospect? It’s paid off in spades for the Coyotes thus far. Jones put up 28 goals and 24 assists in his first season with the Knights after playing on the US National Development Team.
At 6'3, 205 pounds, Jones is already well built for the NHL. He plays on the left side, which is also useful for the Coyotes. And given Arizona's interest in tracking Christian Dvorak's development as well as the fact that Olli Juolevi's rise to prominence came really during the second half of the OHL season, the Coyotes may be in as good a position as any NHL team to evaluate Jones over the whole year.
Jones could very easily be there at #20; in fact, during our Mock Draft the Tampa Bay Lightning traded up specifically to get him. Max Jones might be a solid target for the Coyotes to balance out their forward prospect system.
Logan Stanley - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Logan Stanley is big. Very big. 6'6" big. For a defenseman, that's an automatic plus. Stanley would also represent a very smart choice by the Coyotes' brass were Arizona to select a forward at #7 such as Logan Brown, or deal the pick away completely.
While Stanley has some offensive spark - he had five goals and seventeen assists last year - he is capable of playing a physical, bruising game. Even though the league is heading away from size in favor of speed and puck-handling, Stanley's development track could very easily focus on becoming a better playmaker. And he would be a more natural fit behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski on the left side; Stanley could ease his way into the NHL on the third pairing with some power play time to maximize his size and physicality advantages while more closely honing his offensive game.
Luke Kunin - Center - University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Kunin was nearly a point per game player last season at the University of Wisconsin, which was also just his first season. His primary areas of improvement include acceleration and play away from the puck, which are both skills that can be acquired while gaining more experience.
At only 5' 11", Kunin is on the smaller side for a center, which probably isn't the direction Arizona wants to head in. But there's no such thing as too much talent, and with the departure of Maxim Letunov the Coyotes could take on another center project in case one of their current prospects does not pan out.
Riley Tufte - Left Wing - Fargo Force (USHL)
"He's an incredible skater" is always good to hear about a young player, especially when that player is 6' 5". He will be playing next season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, which should give him a chance to ply his trade against tougher competition.
The problem with Tufte is that he is the quintessential case of having great unteachable qualities, but worrisome results. Tufte scored ten times in twenty-seven games in the USHL, which while good, is not exactly exceptional production. Arizona can afford for a high-level forward prospect or two to not pan out given how many are in their system now, but a first round pick is a very expensive chip to gamble with.
The consensus about this year's Draft is that the first 20 spots have a very good chance to produce solid NHL players. The Arizona Coyotes' second pick in the round falls just inside that range. Arizona will need to be judicious about who it chooses, and should consider all its options to find the player - regardless of position - who stands the best chance at making it to the major leagues.