Preseason is always a fun time to be a hockey fan. Finally, hockey has returned, and players are fighting for roster spots as new coach André Tourigny’s version of the Arizona Coyotes begins to take shape.
A lot has happened in an extremely short amount of time. So, if you missed it, here are some of the big stories from the first week of preseason.
The First Cuts
The Arizona Coyotes made their first training camp cuts yesterday, and the roster is beginning to take shape.
The first notification came early in the morning, with the report that Cam Dineen, Hudson Fasching, Dysin Mayo, and Blake Speers were on waivers to be sent to the Tucson Roadrunners.
None of the four names were surprising, and all four had played in a preseason game. Dysin Mayo had played in the Coyotes’ first preseason game against the Kings, with Fasching, Dinnen, and Speers playing in the second. Dineen had the game-winning power play goal against the Anaheim Ducks, and Fasching had a primary assist on a Victor Söderström goal, with Speers and Mayo being held pointless.
But the major surprise came later in the day with the Coyotes announcing the full list of cuts, including players who did not need to pass through waivers.
The Coyotes have assigned 10 players back to their respective teams.— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) October 1, 2021
Edmonton (WHL): Dylan Guenther
Roadrunners: Cole Hults, Ty Emberson, Matias Maccelli, David Tendeck, Ben McCartney, Liam Kirk, Cam Crotty.
Prince Albert (WHL): Reece Vitelli
Gatineau (QMJHL): Manix Landry
A few names stand out among the list. They are players who had good preseasons, and under typical situations, you would probably expect them to last longer.
Ben McCartney had a surprisingly good preseason, looking good in the Rookie Faceoff Tournament and finishing with two assists against the Ducks. The 20-year-old made his professional debut at the end of last season, finishing with five points in four games for the Tucson Roadrunners. It will be interesting to see if McCartney can extend that success over an entire AHL season, and if he can, it will make him one of the more exciting players to watch with the Roadrunners.
Another player headed to the Roadrunners is Liam Kirk. Kirk had a stellar World Juniors, and after some delay, signed a contract this past offseason with the Coyotes. Unfortunately, Kirk didn’t have the most impressive preseason, not looking out of place but not impressing too much. But Kirk has steadily improved as a player, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep doing that or if he will eventually hit a wall.
The biggest name that stands out from the first cuts is the Coyotes' 2021 first-round pick, Dylan Guenther.
Dylan Guenther: even better than advertised. pic.twitter.com/rd7S7jPmgj— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) September 18, 2021
Guenther was a standout player in the Black and White Scrimmage, the Rookie Faceoff Tournament, and in the Coyotes’ first preseason season game. During the team’s first preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings, he scored the game-winning goal and assisted Loui Eriksson’s goal. Guenther impressed in his short time and will get a chance to get started with the Edmonton Oil Kings, where he will be playing tomorrow.
Many people, myself included, believed that Guenther would stick around longer, but if Tourigny has seen enough and thinks this is what is best for Guenther, it makes sense, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt. The Coyotes have a history of rushing prospects, and it is refreshing to see them go slow with Guenther.
This won’t be the end of the Coyotes overseeing of Guenther, though. The team recently announced additions to their High Performance and Player Development Departments, and I imagine they will be checking in on the Edmonton native throughout the season.
The Coyotes' record
Perhaps the biggest surprise for fans may be how well the Arizona Coyotes have been doing. Arizona won both of their games, a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings and a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The wins aren’t likely to continue into the regular season, but it is nice to see the Coyotes have something to celebrate for now.
Surprisingly good goaltending
If you had asked me what the Coyotes had downgraded the most during the offseason, I would have answered the goaltending. During the offseason, the Coyotes traded two of their top three goaltenders and let the other one walk as a free agent. Ivan Prosvetov is probably their best goaltending prospect, but he will need at least another season in the AHL.
But, surprisingly enough, the Coyotes have gotten great goaltending in their two preseason games.
Josef Kořenář got the start against the Kings and looked great through the first two periods. He made 18 saves on 19 shots through 40 minutes, including five saves on the power play. Anson Thornton, an 18-year-old invited to camp, was put in for the final period, where he made 17 saves on 17 shots, allowing the Yotes the 2-1 lead.
For the second game, the Coyotes elected to go with Prosvetov and Czech prospect Karel Vejmelka. Prosvetov looked a little rusty to start but finished strong with 15 saves on 16 shots. Vejmelka was able to clean up with 14 saves on 14 shots, and again the Coyotes were able to keep their opponents off the scoreboard in the third period.
The strong numbers in the third period point to a potential issue, and both Vejmelka and Thornton faced almost as many shots through one period as Prosvetov and Kořenář faced in two. But it’s only been two games, so it is tough to tell if that is a consistent issue or just a coincidence combined with the Coyotes having a lead in the third.
The biggest issue so far this preseason for fans may be the lack of access. The preseason games are not broadcast on TV, and Wednesday’s game wasn’t on the radio. Instead, the Coyotes tweeted a link to watch the Anaheim Ducks video, which was extremely choppy and had a consistent audio delay. I know preseason isn’t the biggest draw, but it wouldn’t hurt for the team to make an effort to let fans watch what is often advertised as the future of the Coyotes franchise.
The Coyotes have a busy weekend ahead of them. They will be playing the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow and heading to El Paso to face off against the Dallas Stars in the Kraft Hockeyville USA game. Hopefully, we will see another round of cuts soon, as we get a much better idea of the 2021-22 Arizona Coyotes.