Even though the season is far from over and we do not know the Arizona Coyotes draft position, there is plenty of talent in this draft class and the Coyotes can add some gems at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
If you look at the Arizona Coyotes farm system, the Coyotes do not seem to have a lot of center and left-handed defensive depth. At center, the Coyotes have Barrett Hayton, Lane Pederson, Nate Schnarr, and Emil Pettersson. Out of the four of them, Hayton has the most offensive upside and has a very high PNHLe (per his DobberProspects.com profile). After Hayton, there is a large drop in talent. Lane Pederson is having a stellar season for the Tucson Roadrunners, but he is likely to play in a bottom-six role if/when he cracks the Coyotes roster. Nate Schnarr is playing in his first season in the AHL. In 2018-2019, he had an outstanding overager season with the Guelph Storm, but it likely will be a while before Schnarr gets called up. Lastly, Emil Pettersson returned back to the SHL after two seasons in North America. Pettersson’s rights are still owned by the Coyotes, but expectations should be lowered regarding his potential. After heading back to Sweden and having a rough go last season, he might not come back to the NHL/AHL ranks.
At left defense, the Coyotes depth includes Kyle Capobianco, Cam Dineen, Jalen Smereck and Kevin Bahl. Capobianco has played at the NHL level for most of the start of this season. He has proven himself to be worthy of a full-time role in the NHL after two seasons in the AHL at Tucson. Last season, he was quite effective in the offensive zone and mustered up 32 points in 40 games. Dineen could emerge as a bottom-six defenseman, but he still needs some more time in the AHL. Bahl can be productive at the NHL level, but he is more of a shutdown defenseman and still playing junior hockey for the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. Smereck is spending most of his time at the ECHL level and expectations should be lowered.
In terms of draft strategy, John Chayka tends to grab his talent from one country over others. Since John Chayka took over as general manager for the Arizona Coyotes, he has loaded up his draft board with a lot of American talent. Since the 2016 draft, Chayka has drafted Clayton Keller (USNTDP - USHL), Michael Karrow (Youngstown Phantoms - USHL), Ty Emberson (USNTDP U18 - USHL), Ivan Prosvetov (USNTDP - USHL), Mike Callahan (Youngstown Phantoms - USHL), John Farinacci (Dexter School - USHS - MA), Matias Maccelli (Dubuque Fighting Saints - USHL) and Anthony Romano (Sioux Falls Stampede - USHL).
While Chayka does often grab American talent, he does like grabbing Swedish talent such as Erik Walli-Walterholm (Djurgårdens IF, SHL), Flip Westerlund (Frölunda HC, SHL), Victor Soderstrom (Brynäs IF, SHL) and Axel Bergkvist (Leksands IF J18, J18 Elit). Chayka tends to stay away from QMJHL prospects, but he did select Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL) with his first-round selection in 2017 and he took Valentin Nussbaumer (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL) with his last draft selection in the 2019 draft.
In terms of the OHL, Chayka did not grab any OHL talent in the 2019 draft, but he traditionally grabs a few OHL prospects. Since the 2016 draft, he has taken eight OHL prospects including Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL), Jakob Chychrun (Sarnia Sting, OHL) and MacKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL).
Given Chayka’s draft tendencies, Jérémie Poirier (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL) and Lukas Cormier (Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL) are probably at the top of his draft board. Both Poirier and Cormier are swift puck-moving defensemen and can be special teams assets. Cormier and Poirier are talented skaters, but the tendencies that they have in the defensive zone are a bit different. Cormier is a bit more well-rounded and stronger in the defensive zone. He will be more efficient along the boards and is stronger in terms of pokechecking and tracking the puck. On the flip side, Poirier is much stronger in the offensive zone than Cormier and his fantasy upside is much higher. Aside from Poirier and Cormier, Tyler Kleven (USNTDP, USHL) is likely the next left-handed defenseman who will be taken, but there is a noticeable drop in talent between Poirier/Cormier and Kleven.
If Chayka prefers to wait on taking a left-handed defensemen till the later rounds, he will have plenty of options including William Wallinder (MODO Hockey J20, SuperElit), Jake Sanderson (USNTDP, USHL), Kaiden Guhle (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL), Jacob Dion (Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL), Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL), Lleyton Moore (Oshawa Generals, OHL), Yan Kuznetsov (University of Connecticut, NCAA), Donovan Sebrango (Kitchener Rangers, OHL) and Ryan O’Rourke (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL).
Of those defensemen, William Wallinder, Jacob Dion, and Kaiden Guhle would be higher up on my draft board. Wallinder, Dion and Guhle have had outstanding starts to the season. Wallinder has demonstrated that he can be an outstanding asset on special teams. If you do not believe me, take a look at some of Wallinder’s special teams play.
Jacob Dion and Kaiden Guhle have had strong showings so far this year. Dion is a swift puck mover, who will make strong offensive plays. He loves to pinch and control the pace of the game in the offensive zone. With Guhle, you are getting a talented offensive defenseman who will muster up point after point on the power play.
Let’s change gears a bit and look at centers. Unless the Coyotes’ season goes completely haywire, the chances of Arizona grabbing Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves, OHL) or Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit, OHL) are quite low. Instead, a realistic option at center for the Coyotes would be Connor Zary (Kamloops Blazers, WHL), Jaromir Pytlik (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL) or Jean-Luc Foudy (Windsor Spitfires, OHL). Zary would be my go-to out of those three. He is a well-rounded center and is becoming one of the best play-makers in the CHL. Pytlik and Foudy would be solid selections too, but there are some noticeable issues. Pytlik’s positioning needs some development. In terms of Foudy, puck control can be an issue as he tends to cough up the puck a bit much. But, those issues can be worked on and should not be deterrents.
If the Coyotes miss out on Zary, Pytlik, and Foundy, there is plenty of center talent to draft in the second and third rounds. Vasili Ponomaryov (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL), Justin Sourdif (Vancouver Giants, WHL), Roni Hirvonen (Ässät, Liiga), Thomas Bordeleau (USNTDP, USHL) and Tyler Tullio (Oshawa Generals) would be solid draft picks.
All-in-all, this draft class is quite deep and John Chayka will likely walk away with the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with quite a bit of talent. Keep in mind that the players that I suggested could go much higher/lower in the draft as the season progresses and certain players will see their stock rise/fall, but I would keep an eye on the players that I brought up as they could suit up for the Coyotes at some point down the road.
Special Note: I just want to thank Carl Pavlock for letting me write a guest post on Five For Howling. I write for several sites including FC Hockey (QMJHL & US Prep School Scout), DobberProspects (Buffalo Sabres scout/writer), WingsNation and JetsNation. You can follow me on Twitter @JoshTessler_.