Arizona Coyotes add veterans to join skilled young players in third year of a steady rebuild


COACH: Andre Tourigny (53-90-21 in two seasons with Arizona).

SEASON OPENER: Oct. 13 at New Jersey.

DEPARTURES: D Shayne Gostisbehere, F Christian Fischer, F Brett Ritchie.

ADDITIONS: F Jason Zucker, F Alex Kerfoot, F Nick Bjugstad, D Sean Durzi, D Matt Dumba.

GOALIES: Karel Vejmelka (18-24-5, 3.43 GAA, 0.900 save percentage) and Conner Ingram (6-13-8, 3.37 GAA, 0.907).


LAST SEASON: The Coyotes took the next step in their rebuilding project, earning 13 more points (70) than the previous season. Arizona was well out of the playoff race, but had a definite home-ice advantage at tiny Mullett Arena, going 21-15-5 at their 5,000-seat temporary home. Forward Clayton Keller had a strong return from a broken leg the previous season, earning his third trip to NHL All-Star game. The 25-year-old led the Coyotes with 86 points and 37 goals. Playmaking foward Nick Schmaltz had a second straight solid seasson, scoring 22 goals with 36 assists. Vejmelka played well between the pipes most of the season despite facing more high-danger shots than all but one regular NHL goalie.

STRENGTHS: Arizona's young core is something to buiild around. Keller has developed into one of the NHL's more productive forwards and forward Barrett Hayton is coming off his best season as a pro, scoring 19 goals with 24 assists. Forward Matias Maccelli was Arizona's third-leading scorer with 49 points despite being limited to 64 games and defenseman Dylan Guenther, the ninth overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft, is expected to have a much bigger role. Add in talented center Logan Cooley, the third overal pick in 2022, the Coyotes have plenty of talent in place for this season and the future.

WEAKNESSES: Scoring has been an issue almost since the day the Coyotes arrived from Winnipeg. Arizona was 27th last season at 2.74 points per game. Finding a top-lline center to anchor their offense is key. Hayton played well when he moved to the top line with Keller and Schmaltz, putting up 17 points in 16 games during one stretch. Zucker should help. He was fifth in scoring on the Pittsburgh Penguins with 27 goals and 21 assists last season before signing with the Coyotes in the offseason.

WHAT TO EXPECT: The Coyotes could take another step upward this season.Tourigny has proven to be the perfect coach to pull the strings with his young players as the franchise tries to get back to the postseason for just the second time since 2012. General manager Bill Armstrong didn't sit back after the Coyotes missed out on Connor Bedard, taken by Chicago with the No. 1 overall pick, adding players like Zucker, Dumba and Kerfoot, who will join Lawson Crouse and Tavis Boyd to give the Coyotes a veteran presence among all the youngsters.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Maccelli. The slick Finnish forward was second among NHL rookies in points last season before an injury knocked him out of the lineup for six weeks. Maccelli picked up where he left off after returning, finishing fourth in the Calder Trophy voting after scoring 11 goals with 38 assists. Given a full season and the pieces around him, Maccelli could be ready for a breakout season.



The Associated Press