The Arizona Coyotes have a wealth of young talent spread throughout every level of the organization. In fact, 55 players were young enough to qualify for this year’s rankings, all of whom were still under 25 years old as of August 1.
These rankings are subjective, with each participant deciding for themselves what criteria was most important to inform their choices. Each of our staff members ranked the players they felt should be in the Top 25 and every player that didn’t make their individual list was considered tied at rank 26. The rankings were then averaged and sorted to determine the final ranking.
Here are the players that ranked 5-1:
5. Dylan Strome
Highest Rank: 3
Lowest Rank: 8
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
An impactful 10 games to end the season in the NHL and a strong AHL season have Dylan Strome climbing back up the rankings in to the Top 5. Despite shuttling a bit back and forth between Glendale and Tucson he absolutely tore up the AHL’s rookie scoring race. He finished 10th in goals scored, 5th in assists, 4th in points but did it all while playing in fewer games than any of the other rookies. In fact, he had the best points per game of any rookie that played in more than 10 games at 1.06. His strong play earned him a spot at the AHL All-Star game and the opportunity to end his season in the NHL before rejoining the Roadrunners for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The question still remains: can Strome produce at the NHL level? At the end of the season he managed a record of 3-5-8 in 10 games, which is a glimpse of hope that he can be a Top 6 player. Remarkably much of that time was spent at 5v5 with Max Domi and Zac Rinaldo as his linemates, neither is known for their goal scoring. For this coming season, it is unknown if Strome will be playing center or wing and more importantly who he’ll be playing alongside. As has been previously noted, He is a playmaker more than a goal scorer, so who he plays with can have a greater impact on his game.
4. Brendan Perlini
Highest Rank: 4
Lowest Rank: 6
Last Year’s Ranking: 6
Brendan Perlini had a great sophomore season earning a record of 17-13-30 in 74 games. He was 3rd on the team in even strength goals and 4th in power play goals. This was an excellent encore to his rookie year where he earned 14-7-21 in 57 games.
Although not as flashy as other rookies who have recently come through the Coyotes system, Perlini has one trait that some of them have lacked, consistency. He’s managed to improve his game and grow, even after enduring one of the worst starts to a season in league history. Perlini spent most of his time on the top two lines, though like most of the players, he regularly rotated linemates and was occasionally shuffled throughout the lineup. Despite the fluctuations, Perlini’s goals per game only experienced a slight dip from his first season dropping from 0.25 to 0.23. He made up for this drop by increasing his overall points per game from 0.37 to 0.41.
3. Jakob Chychrun
Highest Rank: 2
Lowest Rank: 11
Last Year’s Ranking: 3
The start of the Coyotes 2017-18 season was a textbook example of things not clicking with a lineup. Whether it was the offense, defense, or goaltending something wasn’t right. Jakob Chychrun missing the start of the season with an injured knee was one of, but not the only, the reasons the defense wasn’t clicking. With 4 goals and 10 assists in 50 games last season Chychrun isn’t a defenseman who contributes a lot of offense but he is a stabilizing presence who can add some points.
When looking at Chychrun his age can’t be ignored. The 20-year-old was drafted only two seasons ago, when Coyotes acquired the 16th overall pick from the Detroit Red Wings along with Pavel Datsyuk’s contract in exchange for Joe Vitale’s contract, the 20th overall pick and the 53rd overall pick. Chychrun was one of the top ranked skaters going into the draft, and the highest ranked North American defenseman so it was shocking to see him fall to 16th overall, but John Chayka clearly saw something that the other GMs didn’t.
Defensemen typically take longer to develop but Chychrun was able to earn an NHL spot immediately after being drafted. He has yet to play a full 82 game season, and while it’s tempting to be concerned about his injuries, it’s tough not to see Chychrun as a key piece of the Coyotes blue line.
2. Alex Galchenyuk
Highest Rank: 2
Lowest Rank: 4
Last Year’s Ranking: N/A
The biggest move the Coyotes have made so far this off season was trading Domi to acquire (rescue?) Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin made no secret of the fact that his organization viewed Galchnyuk as a winger not a center, but Chayka clearly disagreed. It has not yet been determined if he will be playing center or winger for the Coyotes but he will at least get the chance at center he has wanted. From the team’s point of view the position he plays is almost secondary to the fact that he is a proven 20-goal scorer, and one-time 30-goal scorer.
Chayka isn’t the only member of the coyotes organization that likes what he sees in Galchenyuk. In a recent NHL.com article, Head Coach Rick Tocchet said “I’m a big fan of skill guys that bring a power game with them. He can take pucks out of the corner and get to the net. Guys can set him up for one-timers. In my system, playing down low, he has to win battles, and I think he can.”
Despite being a common target in Montreal media for some unsubstantiated drama, Galchenyuk has managed to consistently produce over 40 points in each of the last 4 seasons. Playing in a market that barely has a media presence will be a big change for the forward, but may be the best thing for him.
1. Clayton Keller
Highest Rank: 1
Lowest Rank: 1
Last Year’s Ranking: 2
Last season Clayton Keller had already jumped to number two on this list, being edged out by Domi. This was despite Keller having only played 3 games at the end of the prior season, 3 games where he looked a little lost. Keller had managed to put together an extremely impressive season with Boston University though where he notched 21 goals and 24 assists in 31 games, and despite looking a bit shaky in his first few games he seemed destined for a big rookie season with the Desert Dogs.
But saying that Keller had a big rookie season is underselling last season. He was an early candidate for the Calder Trophy for best rookie, and though he didn’t win, he was a finalist. He also took away the team awards for Team MVP, Leading Scorer Award, and the Three Star Award. Keller led the team in goals and points with 23 and 65 respectively, and was tied with Derek Stepan for most assists with 42. Keller’s records and how it ranks in the Coyotes history books could be its own article though, but for further reading check out the Coyotes 2017-18 Awards Announcement.
Keller’s impact on the team is clear, in his first year he proved himself to be a team leader and the top goalscorer who is going to lead the offense for the foreseeable, but his impact on the fanbase should not be ignored. Keller was the brightest spot in an absolutely abysmal season, and even during the team’s opening struggles he was a source of comfort for the Coyotes fans. The Coyotes youth movement has long advertised by the team and the media, but never has the team’s future looked as bright as it did when Clayton Keller was on the ice.