The word for the Arizona Coyotes forward group is: potential. This could be a very good year if everything goes great, or it could be very bad. This will be the first season for many of these players. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair could be superstars if their buzz matches their skill level. General Manager Don Maloney also loaded up on toughness and grit, but there may be too many of the same type of player on this squad. Let’s take a look at some of the big names from camp:
Captain Coyote will be 39 years old a few days into the 2014-15 season and everyone knows he has lost a step. He will be entering his 12th year as the captain and has seen more ups and downs as the face of the franchise. Doan will be an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the year, and could take offers at other locations as he did in 2012. His spot is secured and he won’t move unless he wants to, as his value off the ice is much more valuable than the on-ice product at this point.
Boedker is playing for a new contract and the Coyotes have the money to spend. Arizona is the lowest in the league and can afford to overpay. However; GM Don Maloney has been financially responsible in his tenure as GM and has found valuable players. Boedker has been a leading scorer for Arizona for several seasons and deserves a sizable amount. If the Coyotes struggle, he could be moved for future pieces around the deadline.
Chipchura is a modern day grinder. He is a solid two way player and kills penalties effectively. He has played a lot of center for Arizona, but I would expect him to move to wing with much more talented prospects coming up to the NHL in this season.
Many people (including myself) were not happy when Domi did not make the squad out of camp last year. Several reports are indicating that the extra year in Juniors did wonders for his maturity and professional growth. Many are stating that he is now future captain material. Pairing him with Anthony Duclair has done wonders for both in the lower levels.
Downie joins the Coyotes after a year with the Penguins. He will bring a physical presence and help protect young superstars Domi and Duclair. He should see some time on the third or fourth line.
The star acquisition from the trade last year that sent All-Star defensemen Keith Yandle to the Rangers, Duclair will make an impact this season. He should be paired often with Domi, as well as, split time with Domi at C. Duclair is a better playmaker than Domi and he should be on the second line straight out of camp.
Another solid defensive forward, Gaudet could see time on the third or fourth line. He either has good Hockey IQ or luck as he seems to be in the right position to make big plays. Gaudet should open the season in the AHL, but could serve as a call up for bottom six forwards.
Gordon returns to the Coyotes after two years with the Oilers. He wins faceoffs, something the Coyotes should do often with Vermette and Gordon taking draws. He will also help to provide leadership for a very young team.
Hanzal enters his eighth season with the Phoenix/Arizona franchise and was named as an alternate captain at the end of the preseason. The large Czech (6’6”, 236 lbs) does not use his size enough and he appears to be timid about injuries and being penalized . Also, he is not very good on the draw for a center. Change to wing could benefit him at this point in his career.
Lessio has great offensive talent, but he appears to be overly aggressive at times. The problem for Lessio is his name. It isn’t Domi, Duclair, Samuelsson, or even MacInnis and because of that the organization appears to put him on the back burner. Depending on injuries he could be a great addition to the team at some point in the 2015-16 campaign.
MacInnis is still a couple years away, but he is still very young (drafted in 2014). He has a hard shot, but currently I would project him as a third or fourth line player. However; he still has time to grow and improve.
Another solid physical two way player, but the problem for Martinook is the Coyotes are loaded there. He should start the season in the AHL, but will be used as an injury replacement at some point during the season.
The top pick in the 2014 draft for Arizona (#12 overall), Perlini appears to have taken a step back. Last year at this time his skill set was highly praised, but this year Domi & Duclair have not only taken his roster spot but also his hype. He still has time to develop into a superstar NHL player and could be used at towards the end of the season if needed.
Richardson joins Arizona after time in Vancouver and Los Angeles in a head scratcher move. He is another solid third or fourth line center who provides grit. Unless the Coyotes are planning on moving on from Chipchura, Hanzal, or recently acquired Gordon the move seems odd.
Reider and Mark Arcobello were two offensive surprises for Arizona last year. The team chose to let Arcobello move on because of his absence on the defensive side of the puck. Conversely Rieder can play defense as well. He could be a second line player if everything breaks right.
Samuelsson is a traditional power forward with excellent hockey sense. Unfortunately he hasn’t made that jump from great prospect to NHL player. Once things click for Henrik, he will be a great player, the question is when or if that will happen.
The Coyotes are trying to get younger, faster, and more offensive. So the team signs a 33 year-old large enforcer. In maybe a move just to take someone from a division rival, Scott’s signing from the Sharks seems like a strange one. I would anticipate a lot of healthy scratches in his future.
The #3 pick in the 2015 draft, Strome could be an impact player right out of the gate. However; it appears that the franchise will be taking the Max Domi route and let him play another year in the OHL with the intention of bringing him up in 2016-17. Strome could be the future centerpiece for the Coyotes for the next decade if this move works out, but it could cost them in 2015-16.
Vermette returns to the desert after winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks last season (traded at the deadline for D Klas Dahlbeck). He will be the top line center and will help mentor many of the young players on this lineup. A huge factor of his game will be puck possession since he wins a majority of the time in the faceoff circle.
Vitale made huge strides in 2014-15 spending the majority of time in the NHL. He is a good two way player and could focus more on offense if need be. He also possesses the toughness that the Coyotes are looking for. Some of the moves made could hinder his ability to get a chance at the NHL level right out of camp.
Coming out of camp, these are the lines I would expect:
he final roster appears to be churning Head Coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney have stated that coming out of camp the roster isn’t set and changes could be made before the opening game versus the Kings on 10/9. Gordon, Chipchura, Downie, Richardson, and Vitale all play the same role and could be moved around with ease. Boedker and Doan have a good connection, but a change to pair Boedker with Domi and Duclair is not a long shot and would provide a speedy line (or Power Play). Personally, I think Hanzal should move to RW as his faceoff skills are limited and he could try to be more of a Power Forward type by removing center responsibilities. As I said in the beginning, this could be a very good year if everything goes great, or it could be very bad. I would expect somewhere in the middle.
Aaron Davis is an Arizona native and die-hard hockey fan. He played high school club hockey (poorly). He produces/co-hosts a podcast on the Heroes Media Group Network. His teams are: Coyotes, & Penguins, as well as, the Cardinals, Yankees, Suns, Everton, Steelers, Diamondbacks, & Pirates. He can be reached on Twitter – @AKD_56.