For too long the Arizona Coyotes have been the punching back of the National Hockey League, but that time looks to finally be coming to an end.
Across several years, the Coyotes developed a reputation as a contract dumping ground across the league while posting the lowest attendances in the league and consistently failing to reach the post-season.
The start of the 2017/18 season truly encapsulated what the team appeared to be for many around the league, but things began to take a different turn the following year.
Injuries decimated Rick Tocchet’s team, with many fans questioning whether divine intervention could be at work.
But by the end of the season, there was a renewed belief in the team - who missed out on the playoffs by such a slim margin.
The team rallied behind their coach, behind their backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper and behind each other, to give the fans something they had not had in a long time - hope.
Hope is something that is beginning to grow once again in the desert, especially after the off-season moves that have already taken place.
Removing Kevin Connauton from a loaded defensive group and adding Carl Soderberg was a good start to bolstering the team’s offence, but the big trade that landed Phil Kessel has taken the Coyotes even further forward.
The team looks set for the start of the season and reaching the playoffs should now be an expectation rather than simply a hope.
General manager John Chayka has worked hard to mould the team in the image of what he believes can be a regular playoff contender.
His work with developing young guys that are now holding down roles or competing for them is a clear sign of the positive progress the team is taking.
Top forward prospect Barrett Hayton was recently named the 41st best prospect in the NHL by The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler.
Hayton took a big jump in his development over the past season, leading the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and almost doubling his point-per-game production from his draft year.
Despite still being just 19 years old, Hayton could lock down a role on the team’s roster by October.
One other prospect that has a real chance of making the line-up is right-handed Swedish defenceman Victor Soderstrom, a player that Chayka believed was the third best in the 2019 Draft.
With truly promising players progressing through their development system, as well as an NHL roster that has already been improved on last season’s playoff-chasers, the Arizona Coyotes are not the team they once were and people should start taking notice.