Heading into the 2016 NHL Draft, the Arizona Coyotes boasted one of the best forward prospect pools in the NHL. Their defensive depth was not so impressive and there were wild rumors suggesting they were going to offer the Toronto Maple Leafs anything to acquire the first overall pick to select a home grown super star in Auston Matthews.
The Matthews trade never happened and they selected another offensive forward in Clayton Keller with the seventh overall pick. The Coyotes still walked away from the draft by adding two potential future star defensemen – selecting Jakob Chychrun with their second first round pick and acquiring Anthony DeAngelo from the Lightning.
Top 10 Arizona Coyotes Prospects
1. Dylan Strome – Center
Ht/Wt: 6-3/185 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Erie Otters (OHL)
Drafted: Third overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
With his incredible combination of skill, skating, size and competitiveness there is no question that Dylan Strome will be an impact NHL player. The question is how soon? With the Coyotes recently buying out veteran Antoine Vermette, they appear to be prepared to make a spot for one of their young top prospects. Strome has to be the odds on favorite to take that spot as it is either the NHL or back to junior.
2. Christian Dvorak – Center
Ht/Wt: 6-0/187 lbs
2015-16 team(s): London Knights (OHL)
Drafted: 58th overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Arizona
Dvorak is sure to turn pro this season, but unlike Strome, he is eligible to play in the AHL. Dvorak is a complete player. While his offensive ceiling may be lower than Strome, he is arguably a more complete player and more pro ready. The two could have an interesting competition for NHL minutes this year, but both will eventually be in the Coyotes top six in the very near future.
3. Clayton Keller – Center
Ht/Wt: 5-10/168 lbs
2015-16 team(s): U.S. National Team (USDP)
Drafted: Seventh overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Arizona
Despite the Coyotes glaring need to improve their defensive prospect depth at the draft, they simply could not pass over on Keller who in their minds was the better player available over any of the defensive prospects available at seventh. Keller dominated playing for Team USA in his draft year and most recently showcased his skill at the NJEC. Keller has committed to play this season in the NCAA for Boston University where he will add some strength. There is not much chance he plays his four year term in the NCAA, and he could be NHL ready after the coming season.
4. Jakob Chychrun – Defenseman
Ht/Wt: 6-2/205 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Drafted: 16th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Arizona
Early 2016 draft projections had Chychrun slotted as a potential top five pick, even challenging for first overall. He failed to make the Canadian World Junior team, disappointed at the CHL Top Prospects game, and failed to develop his game overall. As a result he plummeted on draft day until the Coyotes astutely traded up to acquire the 16th pick and snag the solution to their prospect depth. Chychrun may have stalled in his development, but that is not unprecedented. If he can put last year behind him and get back on track, he could be the steal of the draft and a franchise defenceman.
5. Anthony DeAngelo – Defenseman
Ht/Wt: 5-11/182 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Syracuse (AHL)
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Tampa
DeAngelo is a supremely offensively talented player whose skill level dictates he should have been drafted higher than he was. 18 NHL teams passed on him for behavioural issues and now the team which drafted him moved him for a second round pick. His stock is falling like a stone and he needs to figure out how to be a professional and quick as he is running out of chances. If DeAngelo can figure it out, he will be surrounded with some pretty potent offensive players in Arizona and could rack up points as the power play quarterback for a long time and set some lofty career totals…or not.
6. Ryan MacInnis – Center
Ht/Wt: 6-3/182 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted: 43rd overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Arizona
The bottom five prospects on this list are virtually interchangeable, but Macinnis gets the nod at six because the Coyotes are impressed with the development MacInnis has made since his draft. He is a tall but lean center who has been adding strength and size since his draft. His overall game is reliable; he skates very well and has excellent vision and playmaking ability. MacInnis will make the jump to pro this year as well, but with the likes of Strome and Dvorak ahead of him, the Coyotes will allow him to continue to develop in Tucson in the AHL. One of the Coyotes most improved prospects is on the right track and projects as a top nine forward.
7. Brendan Perlini – Left Wing
Ht/Wt: 6-2/212 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Arizona
Perlini has seen his stock fall since his draft year. He nearly made the NHL straight out of his draft year but an injury derailed that notion. Since then his point totals in junior have been in decline and his play has been very inconsistent. He will make the jump to pro this year and will need to get back on track in Tucson before he quickly becomes an afterthought in the Coyotes organization. He has all the tools, he is an excellent skater, has great vision and size. His puck control skills are excellent, but he must iron out his inconsistency and develop his competiveness to succeed at the pro level.
8. Christian Fischer – Right Wing
Ht/Wt: 6-1/212 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Windsor Spitfires (OHL), Springfield (AHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
The slow footed power forward had a monster season in the OHL posting 90 points before making his pro debut in the AHL where he did not look out of place. Fischer could carve out a future in the NHL as a gritty net front presence for all the Coyotes higher skilled forwards and he has the skill to cash in on his opportunities. He will learn the pro game with the Roadrunners this year, but could develop into a key piece of their future. His stock is rising as fast as Pelini’s is falling.
9. Conor Garland – Right Wing
Ht/Wt: 5-8/163 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Garland was the CHL leading scorer in consecutive seasons with 129 and 128 point totals. He is a supremely gifted offensive prospect and despite his small size, he plays an aggressive game physically racking up 97 penalty minutes in his final season of junior. His skating needs to improve and he needs to show he can maintain his physical presence at the pro level this year in the AHL. If Garland can improve his foot speed, and if his size is not a factor, and if he can produce at the NHL level; he will be a super star player. That’s a lot of if’s.
10. Nick Merkley – Right Wing
Ht/Wt: 5-11/191 lbs
2015-16 team(s): Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
A bad shoulder injury caused Merkley to struggle last year posting only 17 goals and missing the playoffs. His post draft year was one to forget and heading into his final year of junior, he needs to recapture his 90 point draft season game. Look for Merkley to have a bounce back year for the Rockets.
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