The Arizona Coyotes and general manager Bill Armstrong went into the offseason with a bevy of expiring contracts, a ton of question marks throughout the lineup, a bare cupboard of draft picks and not so great depth in the ranks of prospects. The moves that GM Armstrong did leading into the draft made the Coyotes draft day a monumental success.
In the days leading into the NHL Entry Draft, the Coyotes were without a 1st round or 3rd round pick due to penalties imposed by the league from former GM Jon Chayka’s prospect tampering scandal. For a franchise that desperately needs to rebuild the right way, the lack of draft capital would spell all but doom for a franchise that is fighting to stay above water.
The Coyotes current GM Bill Armstrong who surprisingly made no moves at the trade deadline in spite of numerous expiring contracts got the ball rolling quickly on recapturing the draft picks.
First a trade with the New York Islanders which netted the Coyotes the forward Andrew Ladd and 2 drafts picks (a 2nd round 60th overall this year, a 2nd next year) as well as a conditional 3rd for 2023 if Ladd plays a game that season. Not so shabby of a hall for the Coyotes who have plenty of cap space to accommodate Ladd. The acquisition also bolstered the teams picks in the 2nd round giving them 3 in both this years entry draft and next years.
Armstrong then made a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers to take on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere’s contract while receiving 2nd round and 7th round picks in the 2022 draft.
Prior to the opening pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, amidst a flurry of other trades happening, Armstrong struck gold with the Vancouver Canucks. Trading captain Oliver Ekman Larsson and restricted free agent Conor Garland to the Canucks, the Coyotes received 3 more draft picks in addition to players. The trade netted the Coyotes the 9th overall pick putting them back in the first round. A 2nd round next season and a 7th round in 2023 accompanied Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel.
In all of this the Coyotes retain barely any of Ekman Larsson’s contract which was huge win for the club. In addition, they get a few pieces back to fill holes in the lineup as they play stop gap for the next few seasons. While losing Garland is a tough pill to swallow, the Coyotes are jumping full into a rebuild and with being a highly valuable asset at age 25, the trade had to happen.
Suddenly in a few short moves, the Coyotes are now flush with draft picks and prospects. With the 9th overall pick this year, the Coyotes were able to snag Dylan Guenther a winger for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Guenther was ranked as the fifth-best North American skater available in the draft by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
For the 2nd round, the Coyotes drafted the face of the franchise Shane Doan’s son Josh Doan who is slated to begin his collegiate career at home for Arizona State University. At pick 43, they grabbed Ilya Fedotov out of the Russian MHL league. Fedotov is a driven offensive first winger known for his scoring, something the Coyotes sorely need. With their final pick in the round, the Coyotes drafted one of the best defenseman from the National League in Switzerland, Janis Jérôme Moser. While an overager by draft standards, he is a terrific offensive defenseman. The only other Swiss league defenseman to put up more points in a season at his age was Nashville Predators star and captain Roman Josi.
While absent from the 3rd round, the Coyotes got back to work with the 107th pick where they drafted Emil Martinsen Lilleberg a defenseman for Sparta Sarpsborg of Eliteserien which is the premier Norwegian league. He is not known as a point producing defenseman but is effectively in his own end and can play physical when needed.
For the 4th round, the Finish goaltender Rasmus Korhonen was selected. He was ranked 7th overall for European goalies according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. Noted as one of the best goalies in the SM-Sarja he is a big goalie at 6’5″ that has a ton of raw potential to develop.
In the 5th round, with pick 139, the Coyotes drafted forward Manix Landry from the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. Landry is a captain with young leadership skills and plays a with a fast pace in both tempo and footspeed. A likely bottom 6 player if he cracks the NHL one day, he has all the attributes of a player that would be beloved by fans.
What originally was slated to be their final pick at 171 of the 6th round, the Coyotes drafted defenseman Cal Thomas. Playing for Sioux Falls in the USHL, Thomas is committed to playing college hockey at Vermont. The Coyotes then jumped back into the draft courtesy of a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. They used the 223 pick in the 7th round to draft forward Sam Lipkin. Lipkin is noted a a potential “sleeper” who will play one more season with the Steel before beginning his collegiate career with Quinnipiac University.
After the events of the draft, one has to be excited for the direction the Coyotes are heading in. While the moves were painful in losing Garland most notably, the Coyotes are set up for far better success than they were even just a few short weeks ago. With the wheels in motion, Armstrong is just getting started on rebuilding this franchise into a legitimate player in the years to come.
With free agency on the horizon, it will interesting to see what other moves Armstrong does to fill out the rest of defensive group minus the promotions from Tucson that will likely happen. There are only 5 spots up front left vacant from the action of this past weekend however it remains to be seen if more moves are on the way for the club. It will also be interesting to see if there is more fire from the additional rumors that have been circulating of recent.