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NHL Draft: Coyotes' biggest needs, top prospects

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·4 min read
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As bad as they’ve been in recent years, the Arizona Coyotes are surprisingly bereft of high-end prospects.

Barrett Hayton has yet to play a full NHL campaign after becoming the fifth overall pick in 2018 and looks to be edging closer to bust status. Arizona’s next two first-rounders, Dylan Guenther and Victor Soderstrom are ready to step in full time, but neither are guaranteed game-changers. Guenther looks the part but will need veteran insulation to develop, and Arizona has seen a revolving-door roster recently.

While many teams in Arizona’s position have made strides, the Coyotes look destined for perhaps an even worse season next year. With the top-end talent available at the 2023 draft, another year in the cellar could jumpstart a rebuild. Another option would be trading Jacob Chychrun for draft picks and prospects. It’s a move that would ensure short-term pain for the long-term success of the franchise.

Dylan Guenther is the Coyotes' top prospect. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dylan Guenther is the Coyotes' top prospect. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Top Prospects

Dylan Guenther - The brightest star in Arizona’s prospect cupboard, Guenther has done all he can do in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings, scoring 45 goals this season. He’ll be a key contributor to Canada’s World Junior team this summer as his final tune-up before attempting to make the jump to the NHL.

On an offensively starved Coyotes roster, Guenther will have every opportunity to stick in the top six.

Victor Soderstrom - His NHL audition this season was not spectacular, but the former 11th overall pick still projects as a puck-moving pro. Good decision-making and zone exits are his calling card.

He showed offensive development this year with Tuscon in the AHL. Soderstrom will be an NHL regular next season whether he’s ready or not.

Matias Maccelli - After playing 23 games in the NHL this season, it’s hard to call Maccelli a prospect. He was the top scorer for Arizona’s AHL affiliate, and is starting to look like a steal as the 98th overall pick in 2019.

He could use a season of over-ripening in the AHL, but Arizona’s depleted roster will count on Maccelli to make the jump and an impact.

One To Watch

Sam Lipkin was hardly on anyone’s radar to start the year after scoring only 11 points in 30 games last season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel. This year, Lipkin, who has stretched to 6-foot-2, captained the Steel, one of North America’s premier junior clubs, and potted 36 goals and 71 points in 59 games.

Next year, Lipkin will take the developmental step to the NCAA with Quinnipiac, where he’ll look to replicate his offensive success. If he has a strong season, Lipkin could be rushed to the NHL, but would benefit from a slower approach to his development.

Ready To Step In

Nathan Smith and Jack McBain both made the jump to Arizona at the end of the 2021-22 campaign out of the NCAA, but neither is likely to make an immediate impact beyond a depth role. With a weak roster ahead of them, a large group of players, including AHLers Jan Jenik, Maccelli, Michael Carcone, and Soderstrom will all be given the opportunity to play in the NHL next season.

Similarly, an NHL job will be Guenther’s to lose. Maccelli and Soderstrom have the inside track after extended auditions this year.

Needs At The Draft

Arizona’s depth chart is so devoid of high-end prospects it needs skill at all positions. The Coyotes should select the best available player regardless of position for each pick.

Picking third overall, this almost certainly means a choice between Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovský. If Cooley is available, Arizona definitely has a long-term need at center ice, but this organization needs to replenish the system at all positions.

Arizona can make a major splash at the draft, as it has two additional first-round picks at the end of the round acquired from Carolina and Colorado. The latter half of the opening round and the first half of the second round are filled with talent at all positions.

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