The Coyotes’ rebuild is progressing as expected, and the upcoming draft will be the perfect opportunity to stock the prospects cupboard with many players with genuine NHL futures ahead of them.
The Coyotes own seven out of the first 45 picks in the draft this year, and it all starts for general manager Bill Armstrong when the third overall pick opens up.
Throughout this process, there appears to be a general consensus around the first three picks in the draft, with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Arizona Coyotes all landing players that would boost their rosters and rebuilds quickly.
The most common scenario playing out, especially on social media, would see the Canadiens land Canadian center Shane Wright, while the Devils, who don’t necessarily need a center, would opt for Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovský.
In this situation, it is largely believed that the Coyotes will add to their offensive prospects pool with the selection of American center Logan Cooley, giving them a legitimate future NHLer.
However, what if the Arizona Coyotes are looking to surprise everyone? What if Armstrong would prefer to fill out his list of prospects with the top-rated defenseman in the draft class, Šimon Nemec?
Nemec had a stellar year in his native Slovakia, putting up 26 points (one goal, 25 assists) in 39 regular-season games for HK Nitra, adding a further 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 19 playoff games - reaching the playoff finals, but ultimately losing to HC Slovan Bratislava in six games.
The right-shooting blueliner was even named the MVP of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, helping his country win the tournament’s silver medal.
Cooley, who will play for the University of Minnesota this upcoming season, had a strong season with 13 goals and 36 total points in the USHL while adding 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) with the National Under-18 Team.
This situation would be tough to decide between, but it is more than likely that Cooley will be a Coyotes, with the team’s shift towards an offense focus, with head coach André Tourigny looking to build a team different from those seen in recent years in the desert.
What if Cooley is taken second overall, though? There is still a possibility that the Devils opt for the center, who is generally considered the second-highest rated in the draft, leaving the Coyotes with Nemec or Slafkovský as their options.
Slafkovský has been developing his game in Finland for the past few years and had a solid season in the SM-Liiga with TPS - putting up ten points (even split) in 31 regular-season games before registering seven points (two goals, five assists) in 18 playoff appearances - reaching the finals like his fellow compatriot did in Slovakia.
Slafkovský also had a superb showing at the Olympics, with seven goals and seven assists on route to earning a bronze medal for his country - alongside Nemec.
The two Slovakians would provide the Coyotes with some serious quality, ultimately coming down to philosophical decisions as to who would be chosen.
Perhaps, once again, the desire for a potent offense in the future would see Slafkovský picked here. However, Nemec would still be another solid addition to what is becoming a promising defensive unit in Arizona.
One unlikely scenario would see Shane Wright slip out of the top two, with some rumors on social media suggesting this is still a possibility (is it really?), which would undoubtedly be the Coyotes’ preferred option.
Wright is a player that will have an impact in the NHL very early in his career, and bringing him to the Coyotes would be something truly special, and that is all that should be said on the matter because there’s no real chance that he is not taken by either the Canadiens or Devils.
Whoever the Coyotes select with the third overall pick, they will be getting a top quality prospect that will help progress the team in the right direction and hopefully finally see success return to the desert after many years of mediocrity and near misses.
The SB Nation mock draft starts tomorrow, so make sure to check back to see who Five For Howling drafts at third overall.