The 2021–22 season is fast approaching. Here at Five For Howling, we’re taking a look at this year’s 25 best Arizona Coyotes players under the age of 25.
It was difficult to see promising young goaltender Adin Hill head to the San Jose Sharks in a pre-expansion draft trade earlier this year.
At the same time, the deal helped the Coyotes restock for the future. In addition to the Sharks’ 2022 second-round draft pick, Arizona received 23-year-old netminder Josef Kořenář in the trade.
2020–21 teams: San Jose Sharks (NHL), San Jose Barracuda (AHL), HC Oceláři Třinec (Czech Extraliga)
NHL games played: 10
NHL record: 3–5–0
NHL save percentage: .899
Highest individual 2021 ranking: 19
Lowest individual 2021 ranking: Not ranked
Last year’s Five For Howling ranking: N/A
Unlike many of the players ranked ahead of him on this list, Kořenář appears set to spend the 2021–22 season in the NHL. With only Carter Hutton claiming NHL seniority over him on the Coyotes’ goaltending depth chart, Kořenář has an inside track towards locking down a spot with Arizona out of training camp.
Yes, Ivan Prosvetov will undoubtedly push Kořenář for that position on the main roster. That being said, Kořenář has more than thrice Prosvetov’s NHL experience and is more than a year older with a better AHL track record.
Kořenář’s mileage varied in his eight regular-season starts with the 2020–21 Barracuda, posting an underwhelming .898 save percentage to go along with a sparkling 5–1–2 record. He followed that with a 2–2 playoff record and a .929 save percentage.
Back in 2018–19, Kořenář looked like a potential star as an AHL rookie. Just 20 to start the season, Kořenář won 23 of his 34 games with the Barracuda and managed a .911 save percentage. The next year, Kořenář fell to 12–16–5 and an .891 SV% in 33 contests.
Kořenář started the 2020–21 season on loan in the Czech Extraliga while the NHL waited to resume play. He went 8–2–0 in 11 games with HC Oceláři Třinec and kept his head above water with a .905 save percentage.
The 2020–21 campaign saw Kořenář make his NHL debut, appearing in 19:37 of game action in relief of a struggling Martin Jones on Apr. 10. After losing his first three NHL decisions, Kořenář picked up his first career win by making 21 saves in a 6–4 Sharks victory over Arizona on Apr. 26.
Kořenář concluded his first NHL season with three victories in his final five games. He posted save percentages north of .930 in two of those contests.
On Jul. 13, Kořenář signed a one-year, two-way extension with San Jose carrying a $750,000 NHL cap hit. Four days later, the Sharks traded Kořenář and a 2022 second-round draft selection to Arizona in exchange for Hill and a 2022 seventh-rounder.
With both Kořenář and Carter Hutton set to earn the NHL league-minimum salary in 2021–22, the Coyotes appear primed to deploy the cheapest possible goaltending tandem as they reset for the future.
The Czech goaltender Kořenář, who only just turned 23 in January, could feasibly play a big part in that reset. While he may not be Hill, he still has promise and the ability to challenge for the clear-cut No. 1 role in Arizona if the tides shift in his favor.
It’s very possible Kořenář moves up more than a dozen spots by the time Five For Howling publishes its 2022 “25 Under 25” list. He’ll likely receive plenty of chances to seize control over his destiny as a member of the rebuilding Coyotes.