The Arizona Coyotes are beginning to see the benefits of an improved development system and could have another young player knocking on the door this season.
Conor Garland is a prime example of what NHL teams can get in the later rounds of the draft, with the former 2015 fifth-round pick leading the team with seven goals in 15 games.
While players selected in the late rounds are often a gamble and may never get a shot in the show, those that go undrafted are even less likely to have a chance.
But that is exactly what Lane Pederson is showing he deserves after a truly impressive start to the 2019/20 AHL season.
Pederson, a 22-year-old center from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was passed over during his draft-eligible years after a juniors career that saw him earn 140 total points (53 goals, 87 assists) with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Red Deer Rebels and Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.
The Arizona Coyotes organization has had success with taking on guys overlooked by many across the league and this shift in the franchise’s approach is starting to pay off for guys that may not have been considered NHL prospects.
Pederson entered the 2019/20 season with 130 regular-season appearances in the AHL, with 35 goals and 73 total points to his name.
These are not stellar numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but this season has seen the 22-year-old take an almost Garland-like leap forward in his development and production.
In 11 games so far this season, Pederson has already racked up nine goals and is over a point-per-game with 14 in this early stretch.
This impressive form has helped the Tucson Roadrunners to an 8-3-0 record in their first 11 games, sitting them second in the AHL’s Pacific Division with 16 points, tied with the division-leading Stockton Heat (who have played one game fewer).
Pederson’s development throughout his professional career is impressive and, should he continue to score goals and put up points, he could be in line to make his NHL debut at some stage this season.
When this may come is still an uncertainty, with the Arizona Coyotes themselves having a strong start to the season and showing that perhaps they are ready to be the team that John Chayka has worked tirelessly to build over the past few seasons.
With Pederson still being on an entry-level contract, which would see him earn $690,000 if he was on an NHL roster, he can be called up and sent down without needing to pass through waivers.
Perhaps during the middle phase of the season, where teams typically tend to struggle through wear and tear for a stretch, Pederson could make his debut in the big league.
His strong start to the season is certainly worth taking note of and keeping a close eye on over the next few weeks as, undoubtedly, Chayka and head coach Rick Tocchet will be doing the same.