Arizona Coyotes Draft Targets: Logan Cooley

The Arizona Coyotes are in the midst of a from-the-ground-up rebuild, and general manager Bill Armstrong has been adamant that a competitive team is built through the draft, and not free agency.

Well, the 2022 NHL Entry Draft sure offers one heck of a chance for the team to get on the right track.

Related: Logan Cooley — 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Arizona possesses 10 total picks in the draft, including three in the first round and four in the second, and its highest selection, third overall, has potential to have a huge impact on the team’s trajectory. It’s just the third time in franchise history the club has picked third overall, and the first since Dylan Strome was selected in 2015. Kyle Turris was also taken third in 2007.

The top three candidates seem to be set — with Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley in everyone’s sights — and although anything can happen on draft day, today’s post will analyze what it would look like should the Coyotes take Logan Cooley at third overall.

Cooley Brings Strong Skating, High Skillset to the Table

At this point it’s assumed that the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils will draft Wright and Slafkovsky first and second, respectively, so what exactly does Cooley have to offer? For one, the 18-year-old American center has rocketed up the draft board this season after putting his skating, playmaking, and work ethic on display for all to see. At 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, some have questioned his size in the past, but it’s likely Armstrong won’t be too concerned about that, considering Arizona’s best player, Clayton Keller, is listed at the same height and three pounds less than Cooley.

Logan Cooley USNTDP
Logan Cooley, USNTDP (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Cooley, who’s set to play at least one season at the University of Minnesota in 2022-23, had a season to remember in the US National Development Program, logging 75 points on 27 goals and 48 assists in 51 games, trailing only Isaac Howard. (82 points). Still, Howard played nine more games, meaning Cooley’s 1.47 points per game was tops.

What could be better than that? Cooley is not just known for his impressive offensive output, but is a strong two-way player who’s solid in the faceoff circle, and scouts have been truly impressed with his work ethic and competitive drive. Indeed, it would be quite a consolation prize at third overall should the Coyotes nab him.

Playmaking Ability Would Boost Coyotes’ Offense

Cooley would be an instant upgrade to any NHL roster, because his hockey IQ and strong vision on the ice are virtually unrivaled by any other prospect in the 2022 NHL Draft pool. He certainly caught Smaht Scouting writer Paul Zuk’s attention, who noted, “Logan Cooley’s style of play is one which every team in the NHL could use on their roster. He’s an extremely talented two-way forward, and where he may lack in size to some, he certainly more than makes up for it by playing an extremely mature game in all areas of the ice. Cooley can be trusted in every situation, regardless of how the game is playing out. His two-way game is arguably amongst the top of the class, if not already sitting atop the list.”

The Pittsburgh native would fit in well within the Coyotes organization, which is full of question marks heading into the 2022-23 season. Though Cooley will almost certainly play for the Gophers next year, his elite talent likely means it won’t be long until fans see him in the NHL.

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As it stands at the time of publication, Arizona has just five forwards — three centers — signed beyond the 2022-23 season, and one of those is tough-guy Liam O’Brien who’s not known for his playmaking ability on the ice. Armstrong has a busy offseason ahead of him, which will likely include acquiring aging players on bloated contracts in exchange for future assets, and Cooley would provide a much-needed cushion at the center position.

2022 NHL Draft Critical to Coyotes’ Rebuild Effort

Though there’s no such thing as a sure thing, there isn’t a single projection out there that has Cooley out of the top five, a good sign for a team that doesn’t have a pipeline that’s bursting with talent. Armstrong has done a good job in a short amount of time to take the club’s prospect pool from empty to respectable, led by Dylan Guenther, who just completed a stellar season with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings. The late-season additions of Jack McBain and Nathan Smith, along with last month’s signing of Miloš Kelemen, also help, but much work remains.

Arizona’s seven picks in the first two rounds of this year should — and need to — go a long way in terms of the team’s rebuild, and with one of the best scouting teams ever assembled in the desert, expectations are high heading into the draft on July 7. Though the 2022-23 NHL season isn’t likely to yield many more wins than what fans saw in 2021-22, prospect development could set the stage for a competitive team in the coming years.

That starts on July 7-8, when Armstrong and Co. begin their mission to stock the club with talent.