Friday night at Gila River Arena there was a buzz in the air about this draft. Who would the Arizona Coyotes pick? Who would be available at #7? Oh man, Matthew Tkachuk could fall right into our laps. ...Who's Clayton Keller?
The arena was active with ball hockey, amusement rides for kids and a zip line. The adults in the crowd were waiting, talking about how things would go. Would there be any crazy trades? A lot of the crowd were waiting to see where hometown boy Auston Matthews would be drafted.
Before the draft started, in-arena host Lindsay Smith and new COO Ari Segal hyped-up the crowd with the reveal of the 20th anniversary patch:
They also showed a quick arena update from Anthony LeBlanc, where he said he would no longer give a timeline, but arena announcements would be soon as they were finalizing the location and real estate paperwork.
As soon as the draft started, the arena was dialed in to see the Toronto Maple Leafs take Auston Matthews. The crowd clapped and cheered for him. He will represent Arizona hockey in the largest hockey market in the world. Arizona fans are still wishing they had the hometown boy, but he will do so much more for Arizona hockey in the long run in Toronto.
As the picks went on and on, the crowd was waiting impatiently for the Coyotes turn to pick. As it got closer, Olli Juolevi was selected by the Canucks, Matthew Tkachuk by the Flames. Everyone was restless to see who the Coyotes would pick.
When the Coyotes finally took to the stage, the arena anxiously waited to see who they would select. When Clayton Keller was announced, there was a murmur of shock, then cheering. Some Coyotes fans had no idea who he was, but when they started to show his stats (more points in the US Development Program than Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane as a center) the crowd warmed up to him.
Some fans were still curious as to why they didn't take Jakob Chychrun at 7. But as the draft went on he kept falling down the order. When Detroit stalled out on their time and rumblings from the likes of Bob McKenize started to come out that Arizona was moving up to 16, the arena started to murmur with excitement again.
Commissioner Bettman came to the stage to announce the trade with the Red Wings, pick 16 and Pavel Datsyuk's contract for picks 20, 53 and Joe Vitale. A lot of fans were not happy about picking up Datsyuk's contract, but with this hit, the Coyotes are still $7.5 Million dollars under the cap floor.
At 16 the Coyotes selected Jakob Chychrun, who struggled in his draft year but is still considered one of the best defensemen to come out of the draft. The arena was full of hopeful murmurs, the future is looking brighter and brighter for the Coyotes.
This draft has been called a coup for the Coyotes by many; that they ran away with the draft with the picks from the first round and what they did in the second. Most Coyotes fans I know are extremely pleased by the picks. Some hate picking up Datsyuk's contract, but in the end, all that matters is that the Coyotes and their brand new GM are on the upswing.