It has been a busy week for the Arizona Coyotes. They made a number of trades, lost Tyler Pitlick in the expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken, and drafted nine players at the NHL Entry Draft. Below are some of the Five For Howling crew and their thoughts on everything that happened.
Thoughts on the trade that sent Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver and brought the 9th overall pick to Arizona?
Mike: It’s hard to call this trade anything but a massive win for the Coyotes. The Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel contracts barely factor into my evaluation — they all only have one year remaining and there’s an outside chance the ‘Yotes might be able to flip Beagle or Roussel, with retention, at the trade deadline for some low draft picks. Dealing Garland had to have been tough for Bill Armstrong but the two sides were clearly far apart on a contract and the Coyotes desperately needed to add another top-10 draft choice (and another second-rounder, for that matter). The biggest win, here, is getting out of the final six years of Ekman-Larsson’s albatross contract. I’m a little surprised the Coyotes didn’t have to package any picks with OEL to move that deal. Getting three picks in return? Massive, massive win.
James: On an emotional level, it’s difficult to see Garland and especially OEL no longer wearing a Coyotes jersey, but the trade itself is a massive win for Bill Armstrong and the team. Landing a top-ten pick in a year where the team didn’t have a first-rounder, taking on high-cap/low-cost contracts that expire after just one season and even landing a FIFTH second-round pick in the stronger 2022 Draft are all big wins for the Coyotes. The team is beginning a clear rebuild and having the cap flexibility they will have after this season will be a huge asset as they look to build through the draft, finally.
Carl: At a certain point it looked extremely likely that the team was going to be looking to trade Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I still do not believe that the Coyotes need to go “blow it up, full rebuild” but Bill Armstrong and ownership seem to think it is the right move. With the Coyotes going that route, I think this was the best return that the Coyotes could have hoped for. They got into the first round this year, picked up picks for the next two drafts, and got rid of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract, without having to deal with long-term cap commitments. We are now officially in the Bill Armstrong era, and he has definitely made a big, bold move to mark the start of his tenure.
Rose: I hate it. I understand it, I recognize it was necessary but I still hate seeing players I’ve grown fond of being shipped off to other teams. That being said, Armstrong got the first-rounder he needed so it was a win.
Seth: It’s awkward to sort through this trade in terms of what was given up, and what was gained. Ekman-Larsson was still a productive player, but was being paid like a superstar, with another half-decade of commitment still to go. Getting his contract off the books gives the Coyotes much more flexibility in the long run, and the contracts the Coyotes took on in return are all off the books next year. And while Garland was the Coyotes’ best forward at times last season, he was oft-injured. An undersized winger is an archetype that’s extremely hard to commit a lot of money and term to, and getting the 9th pick in return for that should be viewed as a positive. I hate losing the players — one of which was your captain — but the asset management is fine work.
Sarah: If Armstrong was set on moving on from Garland, then this was an impressive way to do it. Oliver Ekman-Larsson needed to go in order for the team to move forward. He may bounce back a bit in Vancouver, but if he stayed here any longer the situation would certainly get worse. By attaching Garland to Ekman-Larsson, the team can completely move past the entire issue without it severely harming their future. The 9th overall pick will hopefully fit into the team’s timeline better. I only wish that Garland had been treated better in negotiations. He said he wanted to stay and maybe they could have made it work with some communication. Still, this was an ideal way to utilize his value long-term.
Robyn: We all saw this coming eventually. Not only was this move completely necessary, but it was done with one of the best possible outcomes: The Coyotes got back into the first round, captured some extra picks, and unloaded a really “tough-to-swallow” contract anchored by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But this trade wouldn’t have been possible without the high trade stock in the pending RFA, Conor Garland. Yes, moving on from Garland is a tough pill to swallow for many Coyotes fans; he became an overnight fan favorite, including yours truly — but for the Coyotes to buy into the “fresh start” that was touted by Bill Armstrong and new head coach Andre Tourigny, moving Garland only made sense. This short-term pain will definitely sting across the valley, but I definitely believe Armstrong is making the right moves for the long-term success of the Arizona Coyotes. Acquiring the 9th overall draft pick is a true showing of that.
The Coyotes selected Dylan Guenther 9th overall, where do you think he fits in the Coyotes’ plans?
Mike: Guenther is such a good prospect. He has everything the Coyotes need: talent, strength, intelligence, productivity, and a great shot. I thought it was a major coup for Arizona to pick him up at the No. 9 slot. He’d look fantastic playing opposite Clayton Keller on a line at some point.
James: Landing Guenther where they did is huge for the Coyotes. He was expected to land around the top-five of the draft, so to get a player of his quality after previously having no first-rounder gives the team another legitimate top prospect they can work to develop over the next couple of seasons as they progress through the rebuild.
Carl: Guenther is an intriguing prospect who checks a lot of boxes for the Coyotes. The Coyotes have a lot of needs moving forward, but one consistent need they have had for a while is a finisher, especially with the team moving Conor Garland. Guenther should be at the top of the Coyotes’ prospect pool, and will hopefully be NHL ready soon.
Rose: Difficult to say when I think the plans are longer term. Plus he’s a winger and they are easier to replace than centers or defenders.
Seth: In a draft year where opinions and consensus were all over the place, the Coyotes get one of the bonafide top talents in the draft. Guenther sounds like the kind of scoring talent the Coyotes haven’t had since Radim Vrbata (and have spent significant resources chasing since, ex. Galchenyuk, Kessel). But as with all prospects, we won’t know for sure for a while.
Sarah: Dylan Guenther was a logical pick at 9th overall. Most draft rankings had him in the top 10 and some even had him in the top 5. He seems exactly like the type of player Armstrong wants. He can score goals with a powerful shot, but also get to the net. He may not become as effective as Conor Garland was, but I still think fans will be happy with this acquisition in the long run.
Robyn: With the Coyotes at #9, their draft decision would definitely have fallen to “best available” according to the draft board. Knowing the Coyotes’ needs, I would have had them pick Kent Johnson (he ended up #5), or Cole Sillinger (picked #12). My own board had Guenther to be picked before both these players, given his talent as a true goal scorer. Yes, we had a very limited sample size with the incredibly short WHL season, but if the scouts were right in analyzing his play-style we have a solid new forward in Dylan Guenter.
Did the Coyotes reach in drafting Josh Doan and Ilya Fedotov?
Mike: Probably. Doan felt like an obvious pick for the Coyotes and I fully expected them to land him at some point on day two. I wouldn’t have blinked had they taken him in the fourth round, or even with pick No. 60. At 37 … he was a bit of a reach. That said, his selection is one of the best feel-good stories to surround the Coyotes in recent memory. He’s practically Coyotes royalty and he’s heading to Arizona State, one of the NCAA’s fastest-growing hockey factories. The intangible value of that selection likely makes up for any talent differential (and, honestly, he has a ton of skill). Fedotov also has a lot going for him, mostly in the offensive zone, but he needs to work on getting stronger and finding more confidence playing in congested areas of the ice. Productive right-handed forwards can prove very difficult to find. That said, Fedotov feels like somebody who might’ve been right in the Coyotes’ wheelhouse had they kept their third-round selection.
James: Rightly or wrongly, the Coyotes needed to land Josh Doan. Everyone wanted the team to have him, thanks to his father’s legendary status in the desert, and while he may have been a reach at 37, the positivity that will come out of it and the excitement around his progress with the ASU Sun Devils are intangible assets for the organization. Doan took huge strides this past season and if he can continue that positive development at the college level, and then with the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL, then it will be well worth the gamble. For Fedotov, it’s been such a difficult year to assess prospects and having a guy that plays regularly in the Russian junior league, with the prospect of featuring more often in the KHL in the near future, is something that will have helped the team take another gamble on him.
Carl: The draft rankings leading into this draft seemed like they were the most likely to be off. Players didn’t get the same playtime and scouts didn’t get as many opportunities to watch prospects. And so I wasn’t surprised teams go off-board with some of their picks and see players get drafted much earlier or later than they were predicted. Doan was going to be drafted, and if he went a little earlier it seems more likely it was because Bill Armstrong was worried he wouldn’t be available, and not because of nepotism.
Rose: I’m not sure the consensus for this draft is as accurate as it usually is for other well scouted drafts. The picks were definitely reaches when the consensus had them much lower. Not to mention both were overagers.
Seth: Probably. But in a year where scouting reports and consensus were as volatile as ever, I’m fine eschewing value for fit. It’s easy to cry nepotism over the Josh Doan pick, but he was worthy of being drafted; who cares if it’s a dozen spots too high? And as an Arizona State commit, the Coyotes won’t have to go far to keep a close eye on his development. With Fedotov, it again feels like he has NHL-worthy scoring skills, so I’m fine betting on them translating into something down the line.
Sarah: The team may have been able to get both players later, but it’s not a necessary risk. Many already have deemed this a weaker draft class, so I would not worry about if the picks were ‘reaches’. It’s good for the fanbase to be excited about drafting a player they recognize who still has NHL potential. As for Ilya Fedotov, he is another player that shows Armstrong’s desire for a physical team.
Robyn: Uhhh.. yeah, kinda. Both definitely could have been picked later. However, if the Coyotes war room had a reason to believe either skater would have been picked at some point from their picks, then I can see their reasoning to pick both of them up as early as they did. I don’t know what goes on in those war rooms, so I can’t really say how it went down. However, the pick of Josh Doan was definitely such a unique pick that I believe can benefit the Coyotes growth in a whole other way. Yes, we’re talking the son of one of, if not the greatest Arizona Coyote to lace them up. To make things better Doan is committed to play at Arizona State just across the valley. Not only can the scouts watch his development closely, but so can the Coyotes fans wanting to take a peek into the future of the franchise. So this was a solid pick in more ways than one.
Did you expect the Coyotes to keep all three second-round picks?
Mike: Absolutely, unless they planned on consolidating a couple of them to gain another first-round selection. Armstrong has repeatedly preached the importance of recouping picks and he’s done a ton of work to add that precious draft capital by taking on some otherwise undesirable contracts. The Coyotes entered the 2021 offseason with a relatively thin prospect pool and they’ve already done some great work to make it deeper.
James: This team desperately needs to stockpile prospects and build the right way. Making all of these trades and deals to add second-round picks wouldn’t make sense if the Coyotes then dealt them - unless it landed yet another first-rounder. With so many early round picks in next season’s stronger draft class, the Coyotes have a real opportunity to rebuild in the same way that the Ottawa Senators are, with many top young talents from the earlier rounds.
Carl: This is the first draft that Bill Armstrong was allowed to run, and it was tough to predict what he would do. But given the moves that the team had made in the lead-up to the draft, it seemed more likely that the Coyotes were going to keep their picks. I do expect that the Coyotes will move some of their 2022 second-round picks though.
Rose: Armstrong is a “draft guy” so it didn’t shock me at all.
Seth: In the absence of some wicked trade for a star, I can’t fault the Coyotes for standing pat and picking.
Sarah: It makes sense that Armstrong wanted to keep as many picks as possible to give the scouts opportunities to work with. I was actually surprised he even made a trade to receive a first-round pick because I thought he would wait until next year. He may move some of the second-round picks in next year’s draft, but I am sure they will all be put to good use one way or another.
Robyn: Armstrong’s history of a scout definitely makes be unsurprised he utilized all three second-round picks this year. Especially with his focus on that “fresh-start”. Yeah 2nd rounders are still probably three to four years (maybe more) from breaking into the show, but ground-up rebuild starts with the farm, so stock up Armstrong! On a similar note: next year’s 5 second-round picks anyone??? By the end of this all we’ll just begin calling the second round of the NHL Draft, the Bill Armstrong round.
Overall, how would you grade the Coyotes draft?
Mike: I’d give it a B. Guenther was a home-run pick and Janis Moser was a great swing for the fences. Manix Landry was a good value selection in the sixth round. Fedotov and Lilleberg felt like reaches at their respective positions but they both offer appealing attributes to the organization. I’ll reserve too much judgment on the Doan pick until he gets some games under his belt at ASU.
James: Solid B. Guenther is huge for the team, and they’ve chosen some overage players that could develop into decent NHL players and are possibly a little further along in their development as a result. Doan is a nice story that helps boost this, while some of the later picks are much harder to grade. Lilleberg will be familiar to both Shane Doan and André Tourigny from their time at the World Championships, he could become a legitimate sleeper if he can adapt well to the SHL this season.
Carl: B-. Thanks to Covid whipping out seasons, and travel restrictions preventing scouts from seeing players, this was always going to be a tough draft to evaluate. I think the Coyotes scored big with their first-round pick and grabbed a few interesting overagers. But older players have their upsides, and I think the Coyotes finished with some intriguing prospects and no major misses.
Rose: C. Needs improvement. Too many reaches too many overagers. I also haven’t forgiven this front office for some of the bullshit they pulled last off-season so that may be coloring my perception.
Seth: C+. I hate grading drafts, since the fruits of these selections won’t be known for years. I feel that even more strongly this year, where scouting reports should be taken with a grain of salt due to the pandemic impacting play worldwide. But, the Coyotes’ haul is balanced (4 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goaltender), with a fine mix of offensive upside and size across all selections. Guenther and Doan appear to profile as surefire NHL’ers, so that’s a good start. Considering they entered the weekend without a first-round pick, I feel good about walking away with this haul.
Sarah: It is extremely difficult to grade the Coyotes’ draft because it truly is a coin flip with many of these players. My view could be completely different in a few years, but right now I would say a B. I think that regardless of how the players turn out, it was impressive how management utilized cap space to recoup draft capital. Armstrong clearly realizes that a winning team must be built through the draft and he gave the scouting staff ample opportunity to use their knowledge. As for the players, I am not one to pretend I know more than the team when they made these picks. Time will tell which players pan out and which do not.
Robyn: At first glance to me? I’d say a B-. Guenter was a solid pick of someone who was ranked even as high as the top 5 on draft boards. Here’s to hoping he can fill the void left by Garland, eventually. As for the rest, some were made too early, some were on the older side of draft-eligible players. There were even players in the second round available who were top 25 prospects that somehow fell through the cracks that even slipped past Arizona… *Cough* Aatu Räty *cough*..... Anyway, this draft is extremely hard to look deep into because of the limited sample sizes for many of these players. So take these grades as well as the analysis with a grain of salt. Many of these players will be running the gauntlet through Tucson eventually, which is where they’ll get my true judgment.