Winnipeg Jets 2022-23 Opponents Preview: Arizona Coyotes

In 2022-23, the Winnipeg Jets have 26 tilts against fellow Central Division teams — four games apiece against the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and three games apiece against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. In anticipation of the campaign to come, our THW Jets team’s “Opponents Preview” Series takes a look at each Central Division foe.

Arizona Coyotes vs. Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Results
Nov. 29, 2021 @ Winnipeg: Arizona 1, Winnipeg 0
January 4, 2022 @ Arizona : Winnipeg 3, Arizona 1
February 27, 2022 @ Arizona: Winnipeg 5, Arizona 3
March 27, 2022 @ Winnipeg : Winnipeg 2, Arizona 1 (OT)

As futile as the Arizona Coyotes were last season, they always played the Winnipeg Jets tough. A team touted to be a Stanley Cup contender, the Jets’ four games against the Coyotes should have been easy wins, and that wasn’t the case.

The Jets’ 3-1-0 record was misleading. In three of the four games, the Coyotes were either ahead or tied in the third period. On paper, these games shouldn’t have been close, but each one was definitely a struggle.

This year, they face off three times with the Jets, getting the extra home game. Again, the Jets should have the advantage, but the recent past has taught fans to expect the unexpected when it comes to their favourite team.

Coyotes Will Be in the 2023 Lottery

Let’s face it, it’s a totally reasonable expectation that the Coyotes will be in a position to select Connor Bedard in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and management seems to be saving any big moves to improve until after this season. The biggest move the Coyotes made this summer was to Mullett Arena, a quaint little 5,000-seat rink on the Arizona State University campus that they will share with the Sun Devils.

The Coyotes’ race to last place this season seems to be on track. Phil Kessel led the team with 44 assists left for the Vegas Golden Knights. His absence takes years of experience and leadership with him, leaving the team young and without the guidance of a veteran with Stanley Cup credentials. This is going to be a void they can’t immediately replace.

Connor Bedard Team Canada
The Coyotes are hoping Connor Bedard can play a big role in their rebuild. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Jakob Chychrun, one of the team’s most valuable commodities somehow remained on the roster through the offseason. At the end of last season, he made some pointed comments about his future with the team, and all signs pointed to him being moved before training camp. Look for them to trade the 6-foot-2 defensemen this fall for more assets and draft picks as they continue to flounder near the bottom of the NHL standings.

But don’t think for a minute there’s no plan in place. There is. Bedard, the consensus number one pick in next year’s entry draft is expected to be “the NHL’s next generational player” (from “He’s the N.H.L.’s Next Big Star. He Just Has to Wait a Year., The New York Times, 08/07/2022). The past couple of years have seen the Coyotes busy drafting a lot of skilled players and building support that would hopefully surround Bedard. The 17-year-old would be the centrepiece of their rebuild in combination with a number of supporting young players, which would elevate the team into the playoffs. On top of that, they have more than $20 million in available cap space.

Coyotes Are Drafting for the Future

In the past two years, the Coyotes have selected nine players in the first and second rounds of the entry draft. In June, they had three first-round picks. They added Logan Cooley (third), Conor Geekie (11th) and Maveric Lamoureux (29th) to their hoard of young prospects, and although they won’t be in any playoff conversations this year, if everything goes according to plan, they will be in the near future.

Conor Geekie Winnipeg ICE
Conor Geekie was selected by the Coyotes with the 11th overall pick in the 2022 draft. (Image courtesy of the Winnipeg ICE)

Geekie has signed an entry-level contract and of the three first-rounders drafted this summer, may have the best chance of making the opening night lineup. The 6-foot-4 centre has spent his summer in Arizona and is focused on making a good first impression. Cooley is a 5-foot-11 centre with tremendous upside and has committed to play for the University of Minnesota for this season. Lamoureux, who is currently battling a lower-body injury, signed an entry-level contract in August. Expect the 6-foot-7 defenseman to find his way onto the Tuscon Roadrunners’ roster, the Coyotes’ affiliate in the American Hockey League. The NHL may be a year away for him at this point.

Add Nathan Smith to the list of youth being stockpiled by the Coyotes. Smith was a third-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets and spent the past three years at Minnesota State University, being named a Hobey Baker finalist this past season. The Jets drafted him in 2018, and he made it clear he had no intention of ever playing for the Jets. Refusing to sign, the Jets were forced to trade his rights as opposed to losing him for nothing in free agency.

Related: Coyotes’ Hobey Baker Finalist Nathan Smith Set to Make NHL Debut

Jack McBain came to the Coyotes in the same fashion as Smith. A third-round pick in 2018 by the Minnesota Wild, he chose to play the last four seasons at Boston College. Like Smith, he made it known he had no desire to sign with the Wild and was willing to wait until the end of last season to become an unrestricted free agent. The Coyotes traded for his rights and signed him in March.

Jack McBain Arizona Coyotes
Jack McBain, Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

In all, the Coyotes have drafted 19 players in the last two years while still acquiring future assets through trade. They are building a reputable portfolio of young talent, and if fortune follows them and they win the Bedard sweepstakes, they will be in a position to quickly build a winner in the desert.

Coyotes vs. Jets 2022-23

This season should be interesting when it comes to head-to-head contests and should come with six easy points for the Jets. However, as we know, the Jets have been inconsistent and prognosticating the outcome of their games has been challenging to say the least.

Coyotes vs. Jets Schedule 2022-23
October 28, 2022 @ Arizona – 9:30 pm Central
January 15, 2023 @ Winnipeg – 6:00 pm Central
March 21, 2023 @ Winnipeg – 7:00 pm Central

If the Jets can take advantage of their speed and experience, they should have the upper hand. They also have the advantage in net with Connor Hellebuyck and David Rittich in goal. It really boils down to whether or not the Jets can play a better team game in front of them. That will be the biggest question for the Jets all season, but against the Coyotes, those wins would translate directly into valuable points versus a division adversary.

These two clubs are at opposing ends of the spectrum in terms of team building. The Coyotes are in full rebuild mode and are amassing a great deal of young talent, while the Jets are trying to figure out how to mix youth with experience, something they have failed to master in the past few seasons.

Nathan Smith Arizona Coyotes
Nathan Smith, Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Jets should get the better of the Coyotes in their three games this season. That was supposed to be the case last season, and Winnipeg never had an easy game, so until the blades hit the ice, who really knows? The one predictable thing about the Winnipeg Jets is that they can be incredibly unpredictable.

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