2017-18 Arizona Coyotes Top Ten Prospects
After years of bottom dwelling in the NHL standings, the Coyotes have amassed high draft picks and stockpiled top prospects. The prospect cupboard is filled to the brim. The Coyotes have one of the richest and deepest prospect pools in the NHL.
Taking into consideration the parameters to qualify for this list, the Coyotes have already graduated high-end talent are no longer considered prospects. They are still very young and will contribute as part of the core of this franchise for years to come – Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak, and Brendan Perlini.
Those already graduated players make up one-third of the entire roster, and you can count on more help coming immediately in Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, and Christian Fischer. The Coyotes are a very young and talented team which is poised to make a giant leap up the NHL standings similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs achieved the season prior.
Players eligible for these rankings include prospects under 25 years of age with less than 50 career NHL games played.
1. Clayton Keller, LW – Boston U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 7th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Arizona
A Calder Trophy favorite heading into his rookie season, Keller had a busy season playing college hockey as a freshman posting 45 points in 31 games. His impressive performance earned him a key roster spot with Team USA at the World Junior where he captured the Gold. After his collegiate season ended, Keller signed with the Coyotes. Keller finished the season playing in their final three regular season games. The Coyotes failed to make the playoffs making Keller available to the USA for the World Championship where he recorded seven points in eight games. Overall his performance last year showed he is not only ready for the NHL but should be considered the early favorite for the Calder Trophy as the NHL top rookie.
2. Dylan Strome, C – Erie (OHL)
Drafted: 3rd overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
Strome started the year in the NHL with Arizona seeing seven NHL games before he was returned to junior where he dominated the OHL with the Erie Otters. He lead them to an OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup final loss. Strome also had a heart breaking loss with Canada at the World Junior at the hands of USA in a shootout. Despite a season of highs and lows, Strome was a dominant presence throughout. He has aged out of junior eligibility and will make the jump to pro hockey. With having so much young talent, it’s possible the Coyotes ease Strome into pro hockey at the AHL level. The addition of Derek Stepan gives the Coyotes a number one center, but expectations are a roster spot is Strome’s to lose.
3. Christian Fischer, RW – Tucson (AHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
Fischer had a very impressive rookie pro season starting in the AHL where he scored 20 goals and 47 points in 57 games before being recalled to the NHL. He finished the season scoring three goals in the final seven games in the NHL. Fischer will have to battle in training camp to secure an NHL roster spot to start the year, but his size, net presence, and skill give him an element Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet may favor.
4. Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D – Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Arizona
Joseph had a breakout draft season and climbed the draft rankings all season and ultimately went in the first round to the Coyotes. Joseph had his minutes increase throughout the season and eventually was playing top minutes in Charlottetown ahead of NHL drafted prospect, Guillaume Brisebois. His skating and ability to read plays are what stands out. Despite his slight frame, he can throw big hits. The wait on Joseph will be several years as he has two years remaining in junior but his development this year makes him a prospect with tremendous potential.
5. Nick Merkley, RW – Kelowna (WHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
Merkley had a breakout 2014-15 season where he posted 90 points in 72 games with Kelowna and raised his game in the playoffs with 27 points in 19 games leading the Rockets to the Memorial Cup. The following season he suffered a knee injury and was limited to just 43 games. His point production in his final two years of junior hovered just at or just over a point per game, slightly below his draft season totals. Now turning pro, the undersized playmaking forward will look to translate his game against men.
6. Kyle Wood, D – Tucson (AHL)
Drafted: 84th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by Colorado
Acquired from Colorado in the Mikkel Boedker trade, Wood had a tremendous rookie season in the AHL with Tucson. The hulking defenseman scored 14 goals and 43 points in 68 games. Wood is a product of the North Bay Battalion, where under legendary junior Coach Stan Butler. Wood refined his defensive game and formed a dominant pairing with fellow Arizona prospect Cam Dineen. The red flags on Woods file have to be his skating, specifically acceleration, and speed.
7. Brandon Hickey, D – Boston U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 64th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by Calgary
Arizona acquired Hickey from Calgary in the Mike Smith deal to strengthen their defensive prospect depth. The Boston U. defenseman will return for his senior year with the Terriers as a 21-year-old. Hickey has good size, a hard shot and is a solid two-way defenseman that gives the Coyotes the defensive depth they wanted. If the Coyotes are unable to sign Hickey after his collegiate year ends, he could become a UFA next summer.
8. Adin Hill, G – Tucson (AHL)
Drafted: 76th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
In his rookie pro season, Hill had a heavy work load earning 40 starts in the AHL with Tucson. Hill won the starting job making Justin Peters expendable – who was later dealt – ensuring Hill as the incumbent in Tucson. After the trade, Hill play began to struggle as did the teams and Tucson missed the playoffs. Expect Hill to be the starting goalie all season in his sophomore AHL season where he will look to establish more consistency.
9. Conor Garland, RW – Tucson (AHL)
Drafted: 123rd overall in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by Arizona
The two time CHL scoring leader had a rude awakening in his first year as a pro as his offensive production was limited to just five goals and 14 points in 55 games. While the undersized winger attempts to play a pesky aggressive game, his size limits his effectiveness at that aspect at the pro level. Garland will get more opportunity to carve out a niche in the AHL that may translate to the NHL, but if he isn’t scoring, what does he bring?
10. Merrick Madsen, G – Harvard (NCAA)
Drafted: 162nd overall in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by Philadelphia
Acquired with Nick Cousins from the Flyers in June Madsen had a solid junior season with Harvard. He backstopped the Crimson to a Bean Pot Championship and all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four out of a highly competitive ECAC league and was named Tournament MVP. Philadelphia is loaded with goalie prospects, so Madsen was expendable. The move to the Coyotes organization increases his opportunity and seeds him much higher on the depth chart. Madsen will return for his senior year in Harvard.