Hockey is just a couple months away and we’re taking a cursory glance at the NHL’s 31 teams. This time around, it’s the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes haven’t reached the playoffs since 2012. They’ve finished near the basement of the NHL in each of the past three seasons and have allowed 769 goals against in the same period. As a result, Mike Smith was shipped out of the desert and Antti Raanta was brought in from Broadway to take the starting goalie slot.
And Shane Doan was unceremoniously sent packing after a 21-year career with the franchise. The team, according to owner Andrew Barroway, is going to move forward.
The Coyotes are trending younger. A lot younger. Head coach Rick Tocchet is tasked with handling the youth movement, with a potential nine players under the age of 22 set for the opening night roster.
The Coyotes will use Derek Stepan as their top line centre and that’s probably a good thing. The 27-year-old was acquired from the Rangers and has scored at least 50 points in each of his past five seasons. He’s never been a minus player in his NHL career. Things may be tougher in Arizona, but fantasy owners would still be remiss to overlook him.
Max Domi may be set for a breakout year in the desert. He had 38 points in 2016-2017 and averaged nearly 17 minutes of ice time a game, plus he’s emerging as one of the most fearless players in the sport. The Winnipeg native is plagued by injury issues, including diabetes, but he could be set to hit a clean 50 points in 2017-2018.
Anthony Duclair is a conceivable top line winger and could overcome a sophomore slump of epic proportions. He only had 15 points in 2016-2017 after posting 44 points in his rookie season. Tocchet may use the 21-year-old on the top line with Stepan and Domi and that could provide the jam he needs to boost production.
There’s a lot riding on Dylan Strome in 2017-2018 and fantasy owners should take a good look at the 20-year-old. The Coyotes are hoping he’ll spend the whole season with the big club. Strome has a proven knack to produce points in the minors and that may render success at the NHL level, especially if he gets some more shifts.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the best defencemen in the league. Even though he took a step back in 2016-2017, the 26-year-old is a smooth skater, a great puck-mover and an instinctive player. He averaged 24:36 in 2016-2017 and had 39 points in 79 games. He was a minus-25, but it’s Arizona.
30-year-old Niklas Hjalmarsson is the Coyotes’ idea of a veteran. The Swede will pair up with Ekman-Larsson and create a dangerous defensive unit. He had 18 points in 73 regular season games with Chicago in 2016-2017 and is a serene shutdown defenceman. He averaged 21:29 with the Blackhawks and could see a boost with Arizona.
If Hjalmarsson is a veteran, Alex Goligoski is the wizened warlock. The 32-year-old from Grand Rapids had 36 points last season and chewed up 23:19 of ice time a game, so he’ll be a fixture in 2017-2018 as well. He’s a sensible skater and he has surprising agility, plus he can throw the body. He was a minus-9 last season.
Raanta may or may not be the ticket to Arizona’s changing of the guard. The 28-year-old won 16 games in 2016-2017 and posted a goals against average of 2.26 with a save percentage of .922. He’s an inconspicuous goalie, which is going to suit the Coyotes just fine as they adjust to new blood. He’s a safe bet for 20 wins, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Who’s the backup? That depends. Louis Domingue was drafted by Phoenix in 2010 and was 11-15-1 in 2016-2017, with a 3.08 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He may be on tap for the role. Rookie Adin Hill is in the system and may see some starts. He was drafted in 2015 and is a big boy with plenty of puck-stopping ability.