The Arizona Coyotes are having a season for the ages, and it could see them finally land a prize they have never had since moving to the desert - the first overall draft pick.
Since the original Winnipeg Jets moved south of the border and rebranded completely, the first overall pick has evaded the franchise despite many years toiling in mediocrity.
The closest the Coyotes have come to landing the top prize came in 2015, when the team ended up with the third overall pick - missing out on both Connor McDavid AND Jack Eichel, with their reward being Dylan Strome.
While the Coyotes have spent many years tinkering around with their roster, trying to make minor tweaks in hopes of finally figuring out a winning formula through trades and free agency, this regime has opted to go for a full rebuild and focus their efforts through the draft.
The 2022 Draft is expected to be one of the best in recent memory, with a deep class of legitimate NHL talent throughout the early rounds and the top end having some serious potential to be franchise-altering in the long run.
At the time of writing, the Coyotes sport the worst record in the entire league at 2-13-2, on pace to be one of the worst in the league’s history, especially since the original expansion in 1967.
With this record, which is largely unsurprising to anyone familiar with the Coyotes due to the severe housecleaning done during the offseason, general manager Bill Armstrong and head coach André Tourigny have a chance at landing the very best player coming out of the 2022 draft class.
Shane Wright is a player that has had eyes on him for a number of years now already, even before he entered the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old after being granted exceptional status ahead of the 2019 Priority Selection - which he naturally went first overall to the Kingston Frontenacs.
In his debut season in Kingston, on the opposite side of Lake Ontario from his home in Burlington, Wright was gifted an alternate captain’s ‘A’ and racked up 66 points (39 goals, 27 assists) in just 58 regular-season games.
Wright’s second season in major juniors was heavily disrupted by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which saw the OHL hold throughout the 2020/21 season, limiting him to just Under-18 international appearances with Team Canada.
As captain of his country at the Under-18s World Junior Championships, Wright notched nine goals and 14 total points on route to a gold medal, the only form of competitive hockey he could experience.
With the return of the OHL this season, however, Wright is back to playing regularly for the Frontenacs and is already off to a great start.
In 14 games so far, Wright has six goals and 18 total points and is already on pace to register around 75 points by the season’s end if he plays 58 games, just like his rookie campaign, with the 17-year-old being the consensus top-ranked prospect in the 2022 class.
The Coyotes have longed for a number one center for many years, and if they maintain this historic level of tanking, they will put themselves in the best position to land the very best one available in next year’s draft.
Armstrong will have a golden opportunity to stockpile highly rated prospects in the 2022 class, with three first-rounders and a further five second-round picks, so adding the first-overall pick into that mix should set the Coyotes up exceptionally well in their rebuild and give them a serious core of talent to build around.
If things continue to go the right way, this could all start with Shane Wright.