Coyotes’ Road to the Future Begins in Tucson

The Arizona Coyotes currently sit at the bottom of the league at 6-21-3, coming off an 8-7 shootout loss Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks,. The game was their first game since Dec. 17 after a temporary league-wide pause as a result of the rising number of recent COVID outbreaks among the league. As a result, the team’s last four games before Tuesday’s matchup against the Sharks had been postponed. Despite the come-from-behind loss, the Coyotes continue to try and build any sort of momentum as they drag themselves through a very long, treacherous season.

Sign up for our regular 'Coyotes Newsletter' for all the latest.

While the Coyotes continue to struggle to find ways to score goals and win games, the team’s main focus is set firmly on the future. That future begins first and foremost with the prospects on their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners.

Victor Soderstrom Arizona Coyotes
Victor Soderstrom, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since relocating the team from Springfield, Mass. at the end of the 2015-16 season, the Coyotes have benefited from having their affiliate down the road in the Old Pueblo. The Roadrunners have benefited as well, having made the playoffs in the 2017-18 season while winning the Pacific Division title. That’s in addition to being declared division title winners again in 2019-20 after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roadrunners’ Successful Development

The dream for any player who’s with an AHL affiliate is to make the NHL, and there have been thousands of guys who’ve done it. The Coyotes have had their fair share of guys who’ve made it to the NHL after spending time or starting their careers in Tucson, and even the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Rapid City Rush. The current most notable names of the ever-growing list include Lawson Crouse, Christian Fischer, and Barrett Hayton.

Related: Coyotes’ Top 10 Prospects for 2021-22

Other players such as Ivan Provestov, Jan Jenik, Victor Söderström, Janis Moser, Kyle Capobianco, Cam Dineen, Dysin Mayo, Liam Kirk, Cam Crotty, and many others have also spent some time in the NHL with the Coyotes, and appear to be the key pieces and future of the Coyotes going forward. That’s in addition to prospects such as Dylan Guenther and Josh Doan, son of Coyotes great Shane Doan.

The team continues to successfully develop guys down in the AHL, with positive outcomes such as the emergence of Janis Moser, as well as 2019 fourth-round pick Matias Maccelli, who leads Tucson with 21 points this season. That, in turn, earned him a spot on the Coyotes’ taxi squad.

Future Is Bright in Arizona

Regardless of how this season and next go for the Coyotes, hope builds in the organization at the possibility of selecting either this year’s or next year’s first overall pick, presumed to be Shane Wright and Connor Bedard, respectively. Until then, the team will have to continue struggling and fighting through the rest of the season and the next couple of seasons rebuilding before they can hopefully be a competitor in the Central Division.

Patience is key, but the Coyotes have a future waiting for them in Guenther and Josh Doan, who both continue to dominate in their respective leagues. Most importantly, they have their future building for them right down the road in Tucson. While the team awaits positive news on a potential new arena in Tempe, Coyotes, fans will continue to monitor the future that is brewing in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), NCAA, and AHL.

Dylan Guenther Edmonton Oil Kings
Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

While the idea of having a prospect like Wright or Bedard is the most mouth-watering for Coyotes fans and personnel, the team is building the next era of Coyotes hockey in the AHL. And don’t be surprised to see those guys start to find a stable role on the Coyotes’ roster in the next few years. The future starts in Tucson, so buckle in, and make sure you check in from time to time to see how the kids in the Old Pueblo are doing.