The Arizona Coyotes have been through some turbulent moments in recent months, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any bright spots to be excited about for the future.
The Coyotes had to wait until the fourth round of this year’s draft to add some new promising young players into the organization.
While players in this draft class won’t be expected to make much of an impact for a number of years, there are some from other recent drafts that look poised to be key players in the long-run.
The players that have the best chance of making the Coyotes roster over the next couple of seasons have taken an interesting range of routes with their development, but all look like they will be in the running much sooner than expected.
Despite playing in 20 regular-season games during the 2019/20 campaign, Barrett Hayton should still be viewed as a prospect within the Arizona Coyotes organization and is arguably still their best.
While he registered just one goal and four total points, he showed flashes of his talent and offensive upside, especially when he has given a conditioning loan in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners.
While Hayton wasn’t eligible to start the season down in Tucson, only being able to return to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL if he didn’t stick with the NHL roster, his stint towards the end of the season showed that he is already ahead of that level.
In five games, Hayton had a goal and four assists. Add that to his truly impressive World Junior Championships, where he led Team Canada to a gold medal with six goals and 12 total points in seven games, and it is clear that Hayton will have an impact on the NHL roster next season.
He needs to play more minutes and more regularly, but the 20-year-old Canadian has shown flashes of what he is capable of and looks set to have a truly positive future in the desert.
The last first-round pick the Coyotes made came in the form of Swedish blueliner Victor Söderström, who has been developing in his home country since being selected 11th overall out of Brynäs IF of the SHL.
Söderström’s second season saw him play more in the Swedish top tier, registering five goals and 16 total points in 35 regular season games - leading all defensemen on the team in goals, assists, and total points.
The right-handed puck-moving defenseman also helped guide Team Sweden to a bronze medal at the World Juniors, with a goal and six total points in seven games played - seeing the Coyotes have two of their top young prospects earning medals at the tournament.
Söderström, who stands at 6-foot-1, 196lbs, is expected to lead Team Sweden at this year’s World Juniors once again, playing along the top line as the country’s best young blueliner still eligible to play.
He impressed greatly during the team’s training camp last season and some thought that he could be a surprise inclusion into the team’s roster, along with Hayton, but he returned to Sweden and is keeping himself fit and ready by playing for AIK in the Hockey Allsvenskan, with four points (one goal, three assists) in five games so far.
He likely starts the season in Tucson, assuming an AHL season is played, but he will undoubtedly find himself brought into the NHL roster before the end of the campaign to give him a taste of the big league and test his readiness.
He is without a doubt the best defensive prospect in the Coyotes’ system and projects to be a staple in the top four for many years to come - hopefully leaning on captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson for guidance and mentorship to help him along.
Another player that impressed onlookers during training camp last season was Czech winger Jan Jeník, who has been developing in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Jeník was drafted out of his home country and played a selection of games in the top two tiers of the country before opting to jump over to Canada part-way through the 2018/19 season - where he went on to register 13 goals and 30 points in just 27 games.
The following year, his physicality and determination during training camp had fans calling for him to earn a shot with the NHL team, being a bottom-six presence early on with some offensive upside.
Despite this, Jeník headed back north of the border and improved on his debut season’s showing with 56 points (22 goals, 34 assists) in 27 games once again. Jeník also had a nice showing at the World Juniors playing for the Czech Republic (3GP: 2G-1A) and serving as alternate captain.
Injuries are a concern for Jeník, who could have easily registered over 100 points in a full season in the OHL, but he has had plenty of time to recover and should be ready when the NHL training camps return.
He is currently not playing with any team and a return to Europe to get himself game-ready would be a smart move for Jeník, who has the potential to make the NHL roster as early as next season, with a year in the AHL likely needed to give him some time to adjust to the professional level.
A mid-round gamble that looks certain to make the NHL roster in the next two years is Finnish left-winger Matias Maccelli.
The 5-foot-11, 165lbs winger was taken in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 2019 Draft and has gone from strength to strength after heading back to his home country, having played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in his draft year.
Playing for Ilves in the Finnish SM-Liiga, Maccelli scored 13 goals and had an impressive 30 points in 43 regular season games - helping him to be named Rookie of the Year in the league.
He represented Team Finland at the World Junior Championships (7GP: 2G-3A) and appears to have taken the next step in his development so far in the 2020/21 season, with six points (two goals, four assists) in the opening seven games.
Fellow Coyotes prospect Hayton has joined Maccelli at Ilves, hoping to prepare himself for next season’s NHL campaign, which could give the organization a chance to see how the pair might play together.
Maccelli has been a great surprise for the organization so far and his rapid growth should certainly see him make the leap to North America very soon, with a spot on the NHL roster likely to be there from the 2021/22 season.