Not even a year ago, we looked at the Coyotes as an impossibly awful team at rock bottom. Somehow, things have gotten even worse. The roster found a way to get weaker, while the team now plays at a college arena with a capacity of 5,000. The team has a seemingly infinite amount of draft picks and some notable prospects in Conor Geekie and Dylan Guenther. But until they arrive, there is not much to look forward to.
Offseason additions: D Troy Stecher, D Patrik Nemeth, F Zack Kassian, F Nick Bjugstad, D Josh Brown, G Jon Gillies.
Offseason subtractions: F Phil Kessel, F Alex Galchenyuk, D Anton Stralman, F Loui Eriksson, F Antoine Roussel, F Jay Beagle, D Kyle Capobianco, F Hudson Fasching.
There obviously wasn’t a ton of positives with the team last year, but one was that Clayton Keller was able to get back to where he was as a rookie. Keller scored a career-high 28 goals with 63 points in 67 games. His 49.4 GF% may not sound great given 50 percent is even, but it led the team. The only other player on the team above 46.5% was Nick Schmaltz, who has moved to the wing. Schmaltz went on a ridiculous heater in February and March, scoring 10 goals with 11 assists in an 11 game span. In 63 games, he scored 23 goals with 59 points. Travis Boyd was a fourth-liner in his first four seasons, but was a consistent top-six forward in his first year in the desert. Boyd scored 17 goals with 18 assists. Boyd, Schmaltz, and Keller all had an on-ice shooting percentage over 13 percent, which was first, second, and seventh in the league (minimum 500 TOI). Coyotes defender Janis Moser was third.
The Coyotes gave Lawson Crouse a five year extension with an AAV of $4.3 million this offseason. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. Crouse scored 20 goals in 65 games last year, scoring over 15 goals for the first time. Former fifth overall pick Barrett Hayton got his first extended look at the NHL, scoring 10 goals with 14 assists in 60 games. His shots against per 60 and xGA/60 both led the team’s forward core. The least goals against scored per 60 minutes was when Christian Fischer was on the ice. Fischer did not have good shot suppression numbers, it was just that his goalies had a ridiculous 92.7 save percentage when he was playing.
The Coyotes used one of their second-round picks by trading it to Minnesota for Jack McBain, a former third-rounder who scored 19 goals in 24 games for Boston College. He went straight to the NHL after that, scoring twice with an assist in 10 games for the Coyotes. They also traded a fourth-rounder to Winnipeg for Bryan Little’s contract and Minnesota State University-Mankato forward Nathan Smith. Smith had 50 points in 38 games at college, then had two goals and two assists in 10 NHL games. Another late season acquisition was Nick Ritchie, who was a lot more established than McBain and Smith. Ritchie came over from Toronto for Ryan Dzingel and Ilya Lyubushkin at the deadline and scored 10 goals in 23 games. He was five goals off his career-high in 34 less games.
Arizona received substantial draft capital from Edmonton when they took on Zack Kassian’s contract this summer. Kassian spent the last seven seasons with the Oilers, scoring 55 goals in 412 games with 556 penalty minutes. Nick Bjugstad turned 30 in July, but it looks like he has been past his prime for years. Bjugstad had 49 points in 2017-18, but has just 58 in 178 games since. He had 13 points in 57 games for Minnesota last year and was not a part of their postseason run. Andrew Ladd has captain experience, but that’s about it. He had a regular NHL role last year, which he didn’t have since 2017-18. Entering the last year of his seven-year deal that the Islanders quickly regretted, Ladd gave Arizona some value in a bottom-six position in 2021-22. Thirty-nine of Liam O’Brien’s 68 career games came with the Coyotes last season. While he only recorded three points, O’Brien did his job, racking up 106 penalty minutes. A third-rounder in 2018, Jan Jenik is in the fight for a roster spot. He scored 47 points in 51 AHL games last year, and had three in 13 NHL games.
It feels like a matter of if and not when Jakob Chychrun gets traded. For now, he is still a member of the Coyotes. He had to have lowered his trade value with a rough season, finishing with just 21 points in 47 games. In no way was Chychrun as good as his 2020-21 season, but he still had some solid underlying numbers. Aside from Ilya Lyubushkin, who was traded midseason, Chychrun was the only Coyote with an xGA/60 under 2.5. The big concern with him was a huge drop in offensive production. Of the veteran defenders the team brought in, Troy Stecher is the most intriguing. He has always had good underlying numbers in sheltered roles with the Canucks, Red Wings, and Kings. It could lead to a much bigger responsibilities on a rough team.
Another of the few bright spots on the team was Shayne Gostisbehere, who the Coyotes took in as a cap dump from the Flyers, then rehabilitated him to his old self offensively. Gostisbehere scored 14 goals and was one of 20 defensemen to reach the 50-point mark. The concerns came from the other side, as Gostisbehere and his partner, Dysin Mayo, were a wreck in their own zone. Mayo had 12 points in his first NHL season, although his shot differential per 60 was -15.5, the worst among the team’s defenders. Gostisbehere and/or Chychrun will likely be traded by the deadline, which would open up a spot for 21-year-old Vladislav Kolyachonok. He had a very good GA/60 of 2.38 in 32 games last year, keeping him in consideration for this season.
The Coyotes took on the remainder of Patrik Nemeth’s contract from the Rangers, seemingly guaranteeing him a spot on the roster. Just two years ago, Nemeth was a solid bottom-pair defender. But his play took a nosedive upon his return to Colorado and subsequent move to New York. He’s a good bounce back candidate for Arizona. The Coyotes got a ton of offensive production from Janis Moser, although that could be chalked up to the aforementioned bloated on-ice shooting percentage. Despite being on the ice for three goals for per 60, Moser was also on the ice for 4.2 goals against per 60. He’s in a competition with journeyman Josh Brown and Cam Dineen for the final spot. Brown had 118 hits in a sheltered role for the Senators and Bruins last year, while Dineen had seven assists in a 34-game rookie season.
The only thing we know about Arizona’s goaltending entering the season is that Karel Vejmelka will be the starter, and we still don’t know a ton about Vejmelka. He came from the Czech league as a 25-year-old rookie and took the starter’s job in the desert. He had a .898 save percentage and a 3.68 GAA in 52 games. He also had a goals saved above expected that was the third-worst in the league. He’s still young and the Coyotes just need a body in net right now. The same could be said for their backup. Ivan Prosvetov had a save percentage of .880 in the AHL last year, but he is the favorite for the backup job. Jon Gillies is also an option after he had a .885 save percentage in 19 games for the Devils last year.
Clayton Keller – Travis Boyd – Nick Schmaltz
Lawson Crouse – Barrett Hayton – Christian Fischer
Nick Ritchie – Jack McBain – Jan Jenik
Andrew Ladd – Nick Bjugstad – Zack Kassian
Scratched: Liam O’Brien, Nathan Smith
Jakob Chychrun – Troy Stecher
Shayne Gostisbehere – Dysin Mayo
Janis Moser – Patrik Nemeth
Scratched: Josh Brown