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Thoughts on the Coyotes’ draft class

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is in the books, and like every year, people have thoughts. But having followed the draft for many years, I can’t think of a time when views on the Arizona Coyotes’ performance have been so polarized.

Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic compiled a list of negative reviews from everyone from Ryan Dixon of Sportsnet and Ian Kennedy of Yahoo Sports, while Jenna Ortiz provided a much more balanced assessment that you should actually read. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman gave the Coyotes an A- for their role, while Scott Wheeler sorted them into the “Losers” category.

For the Coyotes, this all seems to go back to the first round and their decision to select Dmitri Simashev and, to a lesser extent, Danil But. There isn’t a clear consensus on Simashev, with some scouts having him as a top-10 pick to others having him in the bottom half of the first round. I’ve seen him called the best defenseman of the draft, and I’ve seen someone rank him over 100th.

Image of Elite Prospects’ rankings of Dmitri Simashev

My opinion is the Coyotes got the player that fits best with Simashev. Matvei Michkov was unquestionably the best player available, but there seemed to be no way he would suit up for the Desert Dogs. General Manager Bill Armstrong joked about being unable to meet him, but according to the Flyers’ GM, Daniel Brière Michkov had multiple meetings with Flyers staff. If the Coyotes had drafted Michkov he probably wouldn’t have even put on the jersey and they would likely need to trade his rights away in a few years with no leverage while Michkov continues to play in the KHL.

And while I have no issue with Michkov doing that, it wouldn’t have been good for the Coyotes. Instead, they get a top defensive prospect, something they certainly needed, and a player who wants to be in the organization. They will need to wait two years for Simashev’s KHL contract to expire, but two years isn’t unusual for a defenseman to make the NHL anyway.

After taking Simashev, the Coyotes selected one of his teammates, Daniil But. But didn’t get as much attention, although people think that the Coyotes reached with him as well, but I do think he is an important piece of the Coyotes’ future plans.

It is tough to get as good a read on him as a player, especially since information about Russian prospects can be difficult to find, but he seems like a raw player with a high ceiling.

But is still finding his place and split last season between the KHL and the MHL. He did score two goals in 15 games with the KHL last year, and he will hopefully continue to improve with a good team at a high-level next season.

A lot of people have drawn comparisons with Alex Tuch, which would be great for the Coyotes. The Yotes need to improve all areas of their game, and while it’s no guarantee, I like that the Coyotes took a chance on a player with a high upside.

Also, if you haven’t seen it, watch this video of Simashev throwing But’s name out as a possible pick. I hope the two have great chemistry when they come over.

Outside of Simashev, the player I was happiest to see the Coyotes draft is Czech goaltender Michael Hrabal of the Omaha Lancers. At 38th overall, Hrabal was the Coyotes’ first goaltender selected (Melker Thelin was taken 134th overall, and Carsen Musser was chosen 166th) and was considered one of the top netminders available. With Karel Vejmelka, Connor Ingram, and Ivan Prosvetov currently on the team, the Coyotes are fine with goaltenders now, but goaltenders take time to develop, and the Yotes’ only had Anson Thornton in the pipeline.

You notice a theme when looking at the Coyotes’ drafting under General Manager Bill Armstrong. Logan Cooley may only be 5-foot-10, but in general, GMBA likes to draft tall players, which was certainly clear at the draft.

Every GM has their quirks, former GM Don Maloney’s habit of drafting players who were the sons of former players comes to mind, and the fact that the Coyotes went with Cooley does show that it is not a hard and fast rule. But it could become a problem if the Coyotes overlook a player simply because they are less than six feet tall.

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